I am a children’s librarian by trade. Before I was even thinking about having a baby, I was reading aloud in story time and telling parents and caregivers why reading aloud to their children was so important. I read and shared research, gave tips and facts, and tried to instill a love of reading in everyone I met. I talked about the importance of reading constantly, and I believed it.
And now I have a child of my own. Naturally I planned to do the things I had been telling other parents to do. We started reading together the night after he was born, and now two years later, I don’t think we have missed more than a handful of nights. I believed all the research, but now I am watching it unfold in real life through my child. So instead of giving you more research or another article outlining the benefits, here is this mama’s real life experience raising a reader. Here are the things I see my baby learning and doing that are blowing my librarian, book-loving mind.
1. Rare Words
My 2-year-old said “lurking” the other day. He doesn’t know exactly what it means, but we read about the shark lurking in the water. When in every day life do you use words like “lurking?” Probably not often. Picture books have rich language and rare words. Reading them gives you a chance to share and learn new words together that may not be in your daily vocabulary. I spend a lot of time saying, “NO, don’t touch that,” so picture books are a good supplement to those conversations.
It is so funny to watch a wee one begin to pretend. He is constantly telling me about seeing lions and pretending to eat imaginary food. He can imagine a world so much bigger than the one I’m able to show him through just our daily routine because books invite you to worlds beyond your own and demand you envision yourself in their scenes.
Just like he sees worlds other than the one in which he lives, he also sees people and children with different stories from his own. Stories teach us empathy for others, and they are also a great way to talk about emotions. Characters in books feel mad, sad, silly, and frustrated just like us, so what better way to talk about all those big feelings than in the safe context of a book?
I’m always amazed when my child remembers his favorite line from a book that we haven’t read in awhile. He is learning language, and he is also learning to recognize patterns in stories through repetition.
Now, I think in general that my child has an extra appreciation for a good joke and is naturally silly and funny, but I love his laughter when enjoying a funny story. Have you ever read, The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli? There is nothing like a good burp scene to send a child into a giggling fit. He enjoys books. He seeks them out and wants more. I love that he wants to read “one more book” even after we’ve read several. I also know it’s a bedtime stalling tactic, but I’ll take it.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of being snuggled up with a good book and a sweet child. I feel so connected with him after a long day. Being a working mom isn’t always easy, and I often feel like our time together is occupied with other priorities like bathing or eating. Obviously we have to do these things, but the moments when he is curled up reading with me are pure joy and love, sharing stories and laughter and reconnecting at the end of the day. Mem Fox’s book Reading Magic tells us that “The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading—it’s the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.” I believe this because I know my little reader loves books because of our time spent reading together.
If you aren’t reading with your child, don’t worry. It is never too late to start. I’ll slip back into librarian mode to tell you that your local libraries have tons of books and people who can make the best recommendations for any age child! Our current repeats are Two Little Monkeys (Fox), Ada Twist, Scientist (Beatty), Jazz Baby (Wheeler), and Hooray for Hat! (Yon).