When the four year-old started to show an interest in books, like a true interest, like "bring me books and try to climb up on my lap to read them" interest, I made a commitment that I would never say "no" to reading to him. I almost want to cry at that right now, because I had no idea what life would become for us. I was pretty good with this commitment until his baby brother and sister were born. The Twinstroms were a little more like the twin-storms in his life. They shook up his normal like you can only imagine, and when I was so busy trying to simultaneously nurse them, or pump, or soothe, or rock, or try to put them down for naps, oh my goodness, this poor child was wondering (I'm sure) if his mommy would ever read him a book again or frankly do much of anything for him again.
Still I made it a priority that during the Twinstrom's naptime and when the four year-old was going to bed we would read. Whatever he would show interest in. We tried to start Mary Poppins, but that was a little much for him, we did the Ivy and Bean thing, we've done the Frog and Toad thing, mostly I have looked high and low for serial books that could keep the interest of a four year-old and make him excited for the next installment. He has a whole shelf full of Harry Potter that I can't wait to dig into (even though, I know, he's not quite there, yet). I have not read the Harry Potters myself yet, because I can't wait to share them through his eyes and his experience. This time we spend together reading is as much for me as it is for him. And trust me, what it's doing for him is amazing. My heart leaps when he models this love of reading for his brother and sister, whatever they may be doing, he makes sure they have a book close by, "just in case."
Research shows that if you read to your child for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, you provide them with 600 hours of literacy preparation before they even enter the school system. Even though they may not yet be able to read, they are learning the motions of a relationship with the written word. Information from The Children's Reading Foundation shows that:
"Reading to your child from birth literally wires brain cells together in networks that later facilitate independent reading. Brain research shows that those linked brain cells enable a child to:
- Detect the different sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
- Recognize letters and develop strategies to figure out new words (decoding)
- Develop real-world understanding of what the words refer to (create contexts for understanding meaning)
- Build an oral and listening vocabulary (approximately 5,000 words by kindergarten)"
And what does it do for your relationship? Again, according to information from The Children's Reading Foundation, the bonding that you experience with the child cuddling in your lap (I'll be honest, sometimes I think that the time we spend reading is the only time that my four year-old is still) helps to build and strengthen the parent/child relationship. Even those who are not strong readers or those for whom books are not abundant or handy can build the relationship to stories by simply telling them. You increase your child's comprehension just by sharing a story. Amazing. And all of this FROM BIRTH! I would argue that our family's relationship with book reading and story telling with our kids began before birth. Before bed, my husband would read the book "Oh Baby, The Places You'll Go" to my big ol' swollen undulating belly, and I would read whatever (probably horrible and useless parenting book that I never bothered to finish - unless it was The Happiest Baby On The Block by Dr. Harvey Karp - which I have memorized) I was reading out loud just so that little person could have some sound.
How do you make time for reading with your child? Were you read to as a child? What are your memories of being read to or reading to your own child? How early did you start creating a regular reading routine with your children? How has it changed as they've grown? Please join in the conversation by commenting below - or sharing your thoughts on the Welcome Baby Care facebook page.