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August 18, 2010

The Evolution of the Written Word

From the time the girls were born until they became really mobile, a substantial portion of our “awake time” activities centered around me reading to them. Using as animated of a voice as I could muster, I read – literally for hours on end those first few months – every day. I started reading mostly fairy tales. I then graduated to some chapter books, like Raggedy Ann and Andy.

When I had cycled through our collection of children’s books at least a couple of times, I finally decided it didn’t really matter what I was reading, as long as they were hearing my (very animated) voice. I branched out and began reading them the books that I was reading. During those early months, I know the girls sat through a couple of John Grisham books, Kabul Beauty School, and Three Cups of Tea, plus countless Good Housekeeping and Redbook articles. (I kept the Marie Claire articles out of the nursery, though, on the off chance that they were absorbing some of the material.)

As the girls became more mobile, they were much less content to sit and listen to me read, even in my most animated of voices. Outside of their bedtime story, I struggled to find a good way to incorporate reading into our day. Then I realized I could keep them in their high chairs for a few extra minutes after meals, enticing (bribing?) them with Puffs or Cheerios, while I read.

Eventually, the girls’ antsy-ness couldn’t be subdued with any amount of Cheerios, and I had to release them to the den. I would perch on a chair, out of their reach (since they were otherwise certain to destroy any book in a matter of seconds), and read to them. They weren’t exactly paying attention, but I hoped my animated voice would somehow have a positive effect on their verbal skills.

After a few weeks, I gave up even this effort. I tried reading the girls board books, but all they wanted to do was chew on them. There was a period of a month or so that – outside of bedtime – the girls had no exposure to books. It made me really sad, and I actually worried – a lot – that this might somehow impede them learning to read. What was wrong with my kids???

When the girls were 13 or 14 months old, I finally found a way to reintroduce books to them…a way that they really enjoyed, and one that made me feel much better about their academic futures. :) Instead of reading the words on every page, I would just use the books to point out singular objects (“Dog!” “Bucket!” “It’s raining!”).

Eventually, the girls became more patient to read a very simple storyline. And now they’re usually content to listen to an actual story, as long as there are lots of pictures…and if I’m willing to pause for them to point out every dog, bucket, and raindrop.

I’m so thankful that books are once again a huge part of our days. Usually as soon as I sit on the floor with the girls, they’re climbing into my lap with a book in hand. I love that the girls love to read. And I feel much more secure that they'll eventually pass Kindergarten. :)

Oh, and when they’re the ultimate crime-fighting duo, settling complex litigation and working towards peace in the Middle East…while dressing to the nines AND making the best pot roast in town…well, I’ll know where they got their start.


Amanda said...

Keep it up! My girls love books, although recently I have been horrified because they shredded a book during naptime about a month ago. We made it through the infant/early toddler times with very few book tears and then 2.5 hits and wham! But they love storytime at the library and they will sit through pretty long story books. As long as I'm willing to sit and read, Maddie is willing to listen.

Missy (Two Little Monkeys) said...

Reading is such a huge favorite here in this house. I am loving that Abby & Emma are almost reading on the own now.

Helene said...

My kids could never sit still for books, even though they love to listen to me read to them. They just don't have the attention span for it, never have. We do go to the library once a week for storytime and throughout the month so they can check out new books. But they have an attention span of maybe 60 seconds tops!!

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Here is the weirdest thing - we are both BIG readers but we don't read to our kids.

D has tried and he says it's pointless - they talk over him and ignore him LOL

Deanna said...

We read parts of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in those early weeks. Hopefully, they caught the GOOD parts of the story. : )

I have been so thankful that lately, they seem to be coming around to books. For many months, they just chewed them or ignored me. But finally, they seem to be ready to listen to short stories or look at the pictures. Especially Dora...we love Dora.

M and M Mommy said...

hehe-that last sentence makes me smile! :)

I have been trying to get the girls to listen to me, but seems my efforts are frivolous. They mostly want to chew on the books I try to read them and it's really discouraging! I will keep my head up-it seems there IS hope!!

Jennie said...

When my son was at that great stage between newborn and mobile, he loved to "chat" when he was on his changing table. I read him lots of books after diaper changes :) Now, at almost 10 months, he is mostly interested in eating the books... I am looking forward to reading to him again one day!

MultipleMum said...

Books are very much part of our lives too. I don't know that I have the same expectations on myself that you do. I always read about 3 stories to the kids before bed, but it is rare if we manage any other books during the day. Does that make me a bad Mum?

I think modelling is important. Kids need to see you reading for yourself, to gain an understanding of the pleasure of reading. Love of reading is a life-long hobby and well worth nurturing if you ask me.

Like M&M Mommy said the last paragraph of your post is priceless!

Natalie said...

All 3 of the kids love to read... yay! Because I'm a huge reader myself.

You had me cracking up about the Cheerios - I can totally relate!

Andrea said...

Mine love books too! Like with took time, but one day they fell in love.

Priceless ending to your post! LOVED it!

reanbean said...

I'm also tickled pink that my kids love, love, LOVE books. Reading to my kids is in our daily routine in the morning, afternoon, and night and I've actually threatened not to read a few times if they didn't improve their behavior (it worked too!). Right now they're in the stage where they need more than a board book but are not quite ready for full story picture books. They're good with picture books with small amounts of text on each page (like If You Give a Mouse A Cookie), but I need to find more of them, because while they like reading the same ones over and over and over and over, I'd like a little more variety. :o)