Monday, October 29, 2012

A Reading Family

Our apartment is decorated in bookshelves. We have slowed down in book buying over the past few years because with young children around we - at least I - have had less time to read and the books were about to overrun us anyway (also because we bought Kindles...), but one look at our home makes it clear that the people here are some serious book lovers.

Sometimes I have wondered, over the past few years, if our children will inherit our love of books since we don't read much when they are around. I do a lot of reading on the computer, because it is easier for me to handle while holding a baby or napping toddler, but of course a child can't tell the difference between that and working, or facebooking.

I am not sure where, but I remember reading once that children need to see their parents reading - not just reading to the children, but reading for themselves - in order to develop their own love of reading. I'm not sure if that's true, but it is true that my mother read when I was little but not when my younger siblings were little (I was an only child for several years, so she had more time) and I am the only one who reads books now.

With that in mind, and because I was tired of having gone from 50+ books a year to none, I started making a conscious effort to read actual, paper books when K was about two. It still seems to be mostly after bedtime, of course, but once in a while I manage to pull out my book while K is awake. I only make it through a few books a year now, but I have a small part of myself back.

Reading to the little ones, though, is more difficult. Baby M has a shelf for his board books, which he mainly likes to flip through and then scatter around the room. But it is K's books that give me twinges of conscience.

I have gone through phases during her life of reading to her a lot and not reading to her much at all. Sometimes she simply lost interest for a while. But especially in the last year I have hardly been able to read to her at all!

It is one of the most difficult things about having a second baby, not being able to devote enough time to the first one. M is the Chillest Baby Ever and can entertain himself indefinitely with minimum input from me, but the instant I pull out a book to read to K or a workbook to do with her he is ALL OVER us. He will not sit and read with us (because he is one), he will not play on his own or be distracted by a toy I give him. He will jump up and down on us until we put the offending items away.

The obvious answer is to read to her during his naptime, but the boy has a sixth sense that tells him when I am paying attention to his sister even when he is sleeping. He wakes up within three minutes. With K it was tea - making myself a hot cup of tea was a surefire way to ensure K would wake up at any time, day or night, and demand my attention until my tea had gone cold. With M I can have tea but I can't read to his sister.

I have had a little success with reading board books to both children at once, but of course a one-year-old's attention span is not great and they are not exactly on K's level. I am looking forward to when M is older and I can read to them both properly. That's a long time for K to wait, though!

So K's bookshelf has not been touched as much as I would like over the last year. Apo and I take turns reading to her at bedtime, when it is one-on-one, and recently we started reading chapter books together as a family. I read and Apo holds M so he can't climb up and knock the book out of my hands.

First we read Little House in the Big Woods, which was an exciting moment for me since I loved Laura Ingalls when I was little and have been looking forward to introducing it to my daughter for years. The Slovak was skeptical at first, since he wasn't familiar with the books, but after a few chapters he was secretly looking forward to our nightly reading and by the end he was actively sucked in and wanting to know more.

Once we finished that we moved on to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It is a little over K's comprehension level, but she has seen the first few movies and really likes Harry Potter, so she was set on reading that next once she found out there are BOOKS about Harry Potter as well. The first chapter was a little rough - in hindsight I should have skipped it - since there is a lot of hinting and grown-ups talking about things that aren't fully explained until later. Booooring.

Once we got to the part with Harry in it, though, things pick up. Last night we read chapter 3, where all the mysterious letters start coming to the house. Usually I split chapters over two sessions, but this time K begged me to keep reading: "I want to know what happens next!!"

At that, the Slovak and I shared a look over the top of K's head. She got it.

She was feeling the thrill of a good story, the need to know what happens next. As passionate readers ourselves, we both felt the thrill of passing something on to our child, something we pray will accompany her through her childhood and her whole life.


  1. I too love reading and am hoping to pass on my love for books to my daughter. My husband and I read a couple of books to her every night till she falls asleep, in both Spanish and English. I also take her to the library almost every week. I don´t know how we will keep up the bedtime stories though when we have another child!

  2. How fantastic is this??? I read a lot of picture books to my kids but only Amelia Bedelia for chapter books as my daughter (3) really doesn't have a long attention span. I cannot wait to read the Little House books and Harry Potter with my kids!!

  3. P, we're pretty excited about it, too! We already have the Harry Potter books, Chronicles of Narnia and I think Charlotte's Web, but we're already planning what to buy next in the classic-chapter-books genre. Starting with all the Little House books, of course, since the one we were reading fell apart as we read! I've also got Anne of Green Gables, for instance, but that is definitely a few years down the road. For now I am loving her interest in longer stories and her questions as she tries to understand the more complex topics. This is definitely the part of parenting I was looking forward to :)



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