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Adventure books offer reading reflections

December 2011

“Like this, Grandpa.” After Sam lifted 6-year-old Sophia onto the bathroom counter, she grabbed the book and held it up to the mirror. He stared at the book’s reflection, looking at words that, to his surprise, he could easily recognize. The text was written in reverse.

Sophia sounded out a sentence in the reflection: “Mr. Puff is a nice clean lad.”

She turned the page as she looked at Sam in the mirror, smiling into his eyes. “Mr. Peeve smells really bad.”

“I’m reading,” she told him.

As we sweep into Christmas and Hanukah celebrations, lots of grandparents are looking forward to storytime with little ones. Reading together gives Grandma and Grandpa unique chances to find quiet moments and make memories with grandchildren. And especially over the holidays, books offer warm refuge from a cold sea of video screens.

Sneaking away from the table to indulge in a book with a reading buddy can create echoes of connection that last a lifetime. But how to get kids away from the latest electronic gadgets? Take books into unusual places and make reading an interactive game.

This year, grandparents and parents who are looking for something bookish and outside-the-usual will find a different kind of story adventure. Called Mirror Read Adventure Books, they come with a very special twist: They are completely written in reverse.

Backward text is nothing new, but reading backward books in mirrors is. I am a Montreal psychologist, teacher and author, and have been creating stories in reverse for nieces and nephews for more than 20 years.

Inspired by the reversed writings of Lewis Carroll and Leonardo da Vinci, I call it Connected Reading. I developed this new-old activity that allows children and adults to enjoy stories face-to-face. This face time changes everything; reading aloud with a child has been shown to be the single most important factor in raising a child who loves to read.

Reading in mirrors offers a new point of view of the process.

Lip-reading, which is important in learning word pronunciation, is much easier to do in a mirror. So is practicing “joint attention,” when two sets of eyes look at the same thing—a key component of language development. Kids who are not yet interested in reading can be enticed to sound out stories in reflections.

Grandparents can be innovators in their grandchildren’s reading lives by introducing them to new literary experiences.

I admit I get confused looks when I describe the concept of books in mirrors. All it takes is one try, though—a single time reading in a reflection with a child—and you’re hooked. It’s something about the smiles.

Sam put it into words: “I realize that I have never really been able to watch Sophia read before, or see her face as she succeeded. I haven’t been able to give her a proud look when she got to the end of a sentence. Our eyes have been focused down, on the page.

“I hadn’t noticed what I have been missing.”

Sam learned that reading in mirrors has its hazards: He had a stripe of toothpaste on his pants from an open tube on the counter.

“It didn’t matter. The experience was worth it. I love that Sophia taught me something new.”

Mirror Read Books are available at Oink Oink and Babar West Island, and online from

Robinson makes Community Calls, dropping off books around Montreal to host Mirror Readings at libraries, bookstores and playdates.

Shelagh Robinson is a psychologist and Dawson teacher




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