This writing style is all about putting words themselves front and center in the reading experience. That might seem like an odd thing to say. Aren’t words front and center when you're, you know, reading? Without the words, we'd just be gazing at the illustrations.
But consider when you read or are reading to a child. You probably read without giving much active thought to the words scrolling in front of your eyes. The words become passive paths to the ideas behind them. During a really engrossing read, they kind of just disappear altogether. And when reading to a child, most people tend to point to the pictures, relegating words to the status of a narrative soundtrack for the images.
But that’s not the case with Hop on Pop.
Seuss developed a writing style to make the words a more active experience, thanks in a large part to their placement on the page. Consider this example:
We see a bee. (15.1-3)
The bold, capped words instantly draw your eyes to them, and then the third line uses both words to form a sentence. Although small, this stanza is spread out onto the page to be roughly the same size as the illustrated characters below it. This formatting choice grants pictures and drawings the same attention grabbing power on the page, not to mention the reader’s mind.
The next stanza uses similar words and then adds another one to remix the ending sentence:
See three. (16.1-5)
By rhyming the capitalized words, the lines of the stanza receive an internal rhyming structure. This rhythm aids the acquisition of phonics and the easy of reading. And speaking of reading….
The answer to that question will depend on you as a reader, the age of the child, and her individual reading skills. We’ve developed a reading program for the book, but don’t think you are required to start on step one. Pick whatever your child feels most comfortable with.
And now, our step-by-step reading program for Hop on Pop:
Stage 1: When reading the bold, capped words, point to them, so the child can see that the sounds relate to that particular combination of letters. When reading the sentences, point to the illustration accompanying the words. So when reading,
Pat sat on cat. (24.1-3)
point to Pat, motion with your finger the act of sitting, and end the motion on that poor feline. This way the child will experience how the words relate to the actors and actions in the pictures.
Stage 2: An intermediate stage. You read the words but have the child do the pointing. Depending on where they are, they could point to the illustrations or the words or both. Either way, they’ll be joining in the action—which is what this stage is really about.
Stage 3: Time to read. When your child is ready for the big leagues, have them point and read the bold, capped words while you follow up with the sentences. Either your or the child or both can point to the illustrations.
Stage 4: Sit back with your coffee and let the kid read it to you. You could interject a question or two, just to keep them loose.
Stage 5: You walk in on your child reading Hop on Pop all by themselves. Those questions you were asking at Stage 4 were just slowing her down. You’ve been cut from Team Awesome and a Half (that is, until the introduction of chapter books, at which point you will return to first-string status).
Don’t forget that these are by no means rigid how-to instructions. Feel free to mix, remix, and skip any stages you need to. The important thing is simply to make the act of reading an interactive experience—one you don’t have to shell out an iPad’s worth of cash for.