Monday, March 02, 2009

Passing Along a Love of Reading

It was my mom who opened the world of books to me. To be honest, I don’t have many vivid memories of her reading to me when I was very small. But I do remember that when I was in elementary school and middle school, shopping trips with her always included a stop at Media Play, where I could typically, without too much cajoling, persuade her to buy me a brand-new paperback.

My nose was *always* in books when I was young. A squatty shelf in our hallway held dozens of volumes for me to pore over constantly. My bedroom furniture included a large bookshelf attached to the desk, which soon filled up with the latest volumes in my favorite series: The Baby-sitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High. I devoured anything I could get my hands on; grounding me was useless because I preferred to sit quietly in my room and read anyway. (Yes, I was a nerd.)

I remember signing up for the summer reading program at the library each year, Mom driving me across town week after week to exchange one tall stack of books for another. There I’d collect a new bookmark at the circulation desk and eagerly fill out brightly-colored papers to stick up on library walls and shelves, celebrating my prolific reading.

I have no doubt it’s that love of reading that made all the difference in my education. The books I read endlessly made me a whiz speller, an articulate speaker with a broad vocabulary, a clear and thoughtful writer. And those books opened worlds to me.

One of my greatest hopes for my eighteen-month-old son is to open those worlds to him. I want a lot of things for Elijah, but few more than for him to love reading.

That’s why I registered at right along with Babies R Us when I was pregnant. It’s why I put books at the top of his wishlists for birthday or Christmas gift-givers. It’s why I eagerly head straight for the children’s books at yard sales, hoping to add to our growing collection. And it’s why every time it's a little too quiet in the living room, I melt when I peek around the corner only to find Elijah turning the pages of a book.

There are a whole lot of things I’m screwing up as a mother, a whole lot of things I thought I’d do but have failed at miserably. I didn’t manage to follow through with baby sign language; I don’t play classical music on an endless loop. But I read to Elijah as much as I can.

I’m delighted that my little guy loves books so much. When I sit down in the reading chair, he’ll drop what he’s doing and toddle over to me, anxious to climb up into my lap. The mere mention of the word "read" will bring whining if you're not prepared to follow up with action! It’s not unusual for him to sit for 40 minutes as I read book after book, letting him turn the pages with his eager, chubby hands.

Last week, he discovered that he can initiate reading time by bringing a book to me and whining to be picked up. Nine times out of ten, I don't have the heart to refuse the pleading eyes of a toddler who loves to be read to. Which means that now every time I sit down, I can count on a book being insistently held out to me, accompanied by frustrated cries if I don't immediately respond. I'll admit that the interruption isn't always welcome, but I'm trying to focus on my gratitude that Elijah enjoys reading so much.

This week, elementary schools around the country are observing Read Across America Week (happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!), and we're going to join in the celebration here at Lavender *Sparkles*. Check back over the next few days to hear me talk about the reason we get excited to visit the mailbox at the beginning of each month, some of our favorite children's books, and the book I think should be required reading for every parent in America.

Meanwhile, feel free to start discussing reading in the comments. Do you love to read? Who instilled that in you? What books do you remember loving when you were young?


Zoanna said...

Your little guy is off to a wonderful start. I think reading to and modeling solo reading are two of the best things a mother can do.

I'm so glad God designed laps and made children's ears at the perfect place for hearing Mother's voice when she reads. (Nibble-able ears make it a calorie-free bonus for Mother!) You have some beautiful pictures here. I absolutely loved to catch my kids reading--and when I could do it w/ a camera, even better. Just yeaterday I was tempted to snap pictures as Ben was absorbed in his accounting book, Sarah in a special ed article, and Stephen doing calculus. Joel is part of the Book-it Club thru Pizza Hut. He loves our bedtime reading and was starting to WRTIE his own Star Wars episode last night. (He quit after one sentence, but the attmept melted this mama!)

Anonymous said...

You know I love to read. My mom distilled it in me by reading to us everyday before naps when I was young and not so young.

I'm with you, it's so great to see your kids curl up with a book on their own, isn't it? I've caught Duncan and Owen doing it too. I allow them to take one book to bed with them at nap time too, which they look at quietly before falling to sleep. They love to do that!

Have you seen the Shirley Hughes books yet? I just discovered them and she has some for toddlers about our boys ages. My boys LOVE her pictures. The ones my boys love are "Giving", "Bouncing", "Hiding", "Playing", etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading this series, Amy. I'm sure it will be challenging for me as well as a love for reading doesn't come quite as naturally to me as it does to you. (I wish it did!)

Do you have any tips for getting a busy toddler to sit still for longer than 2 pages? I do all kinds of voices and everything, but he'd rather run around. Sometimes I read while he's playing or stuck in his high chair eating. I confess, though, it's not something I've been that diligent in doing. We all have our areas we feel we are slacking as moms.

Amy said...

Book-It! I forgot all about that program! I thought it was SUCH a huge deal to get my VERY OWN personal pan pizza :)

I haven't heard of Shirley Hughes, Danielle; I'll have to look on Amazon. I am always on the lookout for new recommendations--I'm planning to have my last post in this series be a few recommendatiosn of my own and then get others' input in the comments!

Kristin--yes, I totally agree, we all have things that come easily as moms and areas where we struggle. Reading to E has been easy for me--the ONLY thing about motherhood that has been easy and one of the only things I feel like I'm succeeding at. Generally I feel like a huge, inadequate failure.

I'm not sure about tips for sitting still...I really have no idea how much of it is Elijah's personality and how much of it is what we've done. We started very early and I do think that helped. I know at the beginning when he was still really small, he didn't like to sit and read all that long, but as we kept at it, his attention span got longer and longer.

I think reading while he's playing is definitely a great idea, and also reading while you've got a captive audience--like while he's eating, or in the car. Elijah started getting really picky about WHICH books we read just after I bought a whole slew of books at a used book sale, which was SO frustrating! I was beyond tired of all the old ones and excited to introduce the new ones, and he wanted nothing to do with them. I found that if I read the new ones to him during a long car trip, when he was bored out of his mind and willing to listen to anything, he'd start accepting them at home, too.

So I'd say just sticking with it is the main thing...that lovely word "consistency" that all of us mamas struggle with. I bet you're doing a lot of other really great things to help William grow--when it comes to books, just do what you can!

Bethany said...

My kids love to read too. Seth is already reading the Chronicles of Narnia on his own. I love watching him on his belly in the sunshine reading. Jude just learned to read this year and he is still in the beginning stages but doing quite well. Adelee loves to look at books although she doesn't like to wait for me to read she is in a hurry to see all the pictures and devour the next to her Good Dog Carl books are a fav. My kids do the programs at the library to get little toys in the summer or In-N-Out Burgers in the school year.

Your little guy is getting so big. I love these pics of him. They are so sweet.

Unknown said...

Ronnie loves books too! I am just so thrilled with that! He brings books to Ron and I all the time to read to him. He has his favorites of course, but I love to add to the collection whenever I can. I love the Books from Birth program we have here in TN where kids get a free book every month until they are 5. What an awesome blessing!

Are you on If not, you need to be!! All you have to do is have 10 books you want to get rid of, and you post those on there, then you will get a few credits to get started with. One credit equals one book you can get. The only time you pay shipping is when a book is requested from you, then you send it out. When you request a book from someone else, they pay to ship it. I have three children's books coming to me right now for Ronnie. If you sign up, use me as a referral so I can get credits! :)

Amy said...

you're a step ahead of me, Marcy--that's today's post :)

I never thought of using paperbackswap for children's books! I'll have to check that out.

Zoanna said...

To answer Marcy's question, don't fret about the amount of time at one "sitting" (I use the term loosely). Generally one minute per year of life can be expected. If you get longer, great! Also, some personalities listen BETTER when not forced to sit still. Fiddling/playing with toys while listening is still listening. You'd be surprised how much sinks in when the body is in action. Also, try whispering some of the words. Children can't resist whispers. Or, try telling him to raise his hand every time he hears a certain word repeeated, or act it out. You can also point to a word (and say it) then let him point and say it. Of course praise him exuberantly, "You read the word "dog"! Oh, what a big boy! Mommy's so PROUD of you. Let's see if we can find the word again. Are you ready?" Build that anticipation WAY up!

jennymarie1981 said...

Imagine my surprise when I saw that you had posted about READ ACROSS AMERICA, I did too. What a great initiative. And what WONDERFUL pictures!

You know that game at baby showers when they ask all the mothers to give advice to the mother-to-be? My mom's answer every time? Read to your baby early and often. Thanks for the great resources and for sharing :)

Marianne said...

These pictures are just darling!