What pictures come to your mind as a soon-to-be first time mother? Giving your newborn a bath? Nursing her in the middle of the night? Rocking him to sleep in your grandmother’s old rocking chair is probably a popular ‘happy place’ you may like to visit in your mind. One of the sweetest moments to look forward to can also be a very important one; reading together.
Some may feel that to sit and read a book to a newborn infant is a silly waste of time. She cannot understand the words you read or the pictures you point to, can she? No, but she will definitely be enriched by hearing the soothing cadence of your voice and she will learn to delight in the bright colors of the pictures before you know it!
Studies have clearly shown that babies who were read aloud to, grow up to score better in their school years. But this is not about trying to create the smartest and most intelligent child in your crowd. It is about wanting to give your little one as much of yourself as you are able. That’s what ‘reading time’ will do.
As your baby moves into toddler hood, he will already be accustomed to cuddling up on your lap for a good book. You won’t have to force him to stop wriggling away to find the video games. Children who are not used to sitting quietly for a book cannot understand the concept of being entertained in such a calm way.
Toddlers are the most fun to read books to because they begin to ‘read’ it themselves along with you! You will soon see that they really do have their own opinions and ideas about what is their favorite story and what bores them. You can help them interact by asking questions as you go along. “Where is the doggy? Touch the ducky. What does a cow say?” Little ones love these moments of special time with Mommy, Daddy or a grandparent.
As your son or daughter get older, you will of course exchange the toddler books for ‘chapter’ books like Tom Sawyer or the Pippy Longstocking Series. Reading together can grow into a beautiful ritual that gradually introduces your children to the amazing world of literature. This can become a special evening activity or bedtime tradition.
There will be times that it may be difficult to pull your kids away from the TV or video games, but if it is important to you, it can work. Be a model for your kids as they observe you reading in your spare moments just for pleasure.
We all have busy schedules and many distractions pulling at our time. Having a regular reading time with your child is a physical demonstration of their value to you and your life. It will give them a strong sense of well being and good self-image. Everything stops, and it is just you and your child exploring a favorite book for the first time or for the one-hundredth time! Don’t give up!