I have loved books my entire life. When I was younger I remember getting in trouble because Mom would be asking me something and I wouldn’t hear her because I was lost in the world of a book. I still read as much as I can and have been known to go through a book every day or two at times. Jason, also, is a big reader although his tastes run to thick history books rather than the short, quick Christian fiction reads that I stick to.
So it’s been important to me for Charlotte to love books as much as we do. I know that books can open a whole new world for a child that they can’t explore otherwise. One of the first things that I bought when we found out we were pregnant was a stack of children’s books and it’s still hard for me to see a book that we don’t have and not buy it. I feel like books are some of the best gifts you can give children.
But I got overwhelmed and discouraged when Charlotte was really little because the literature and “experts” that I read said that you should read to your child 20 minutes a day. I found it next to impossible to read one book to Charlotte in the first 6-8 months of her life, much less for 20 minutes a day! She wouldn’t pay attention and would try to turn the pages and throw the book away almost as soon as I started to read. She liked her books but only for chew toys!
I knew that we should be reading to her but it was hard for me to make the jump to reading daily. Our bedtime routine revolved around me nursing C and then putting her straight to bed and there wasn’t a good place in her room to read books with her and Jason between her eating and going to bed without going all the way downstairs again. So rather than continue to stress about it I just decided that we would make our own “rules” and go with them and that meant not stressing about reading until Charlotte was more interested.
Last spring as Charlotte was nearing her first birthday she started to want us to read to her more and more. She started pulling her books out of whatever toy cabinet they had been hiding in and bringing them to us saying, “Yes, Yes, Yes” meaning “Read, Read, Read.” We transitioned to reading four books at night as part of our nighttime routine once I weaned her and she learned that when we said it was time to read at the end of the night it was time to get on the couch in our laps with her milk and read some books before bedtime.
Now Charlotte loves books and asks us to read them often. She likes a variety of books from the Sesame Street “first” books to books with longer stories or mostly pictures. She’s not picky about which book we’re reading but loves sitting in our laps as we read to her. And now we probably do read to her, on average, 20 minutes a day. I still don’t stress about the length but more let her choose when we read and for how long. I think it works better to keep it on her terms and let her show the interest.
We’ll see how C’s love for books changes as she grows older and things like playing outside and the computer compete for her attention. Hopefully she’ll continue to love books and we’ll keep providing her with new books for her level. But for now I’ll just rest happily watching my little girl pick up a book and read it to herself before handing it to me asking me to read it.