Reading to children is a good thing, and I don’t think that’s a particularly controversial statement. It’s not like saying that TV is good for children – I don’t think there really are two sides to this one.
We decided to start early: we read to our baby while she still made her home inside of me. Every night, my husband would get out one of our books (Tacky the Penguin; Let’s Dance, Little Pookie; etc.) and read, his mouth near my belly, sending a very early statement to our daughter about reading – and how much we love her. He ended every session with his advice for her (although we didn’t know ahead of time if she was a boy or girl, so we just called her “Baby”) to grow and become “big and strong” – but as her birth approached, he thankfully changed it to “not too big and strong.” She listened.
Now that she’s joined us, we’ve been reading to her every day without any barriers; she can see the pages and the pictures, and she smiles particularly when she sees Pookie books. Does she remember the voice that came through to her in the womb while she was busy growing into the small, wonderful person that she is?
But we don’t just read her books with pictures that she can enjoy. I’ll read her excerpts of articles from magazines and books that I’m reading, and I also read her books in full of a more grown-up sort. It started when she was just new, her first week in the big world, and I took out my childhood copy of The Secret Garden. Over the course of several weeks, I read to her while she nursed – which means I read to her a lot. I didn’t want to read just to myself since it would take me away from the special, intimate moments with her, so I read to her – and I’ve been doing it ever since. Now I’ll read to her while she nurses or while she’s playing, and I like to think it’s good for both of us. I get to read more than just The Very Hungry Caterpillar (although it is one of my favorites), which makes it more exciting for me, and she certainly hears a wider range of vocabulary (and ideas) than she would if we were only reading books for very small children. It’s also a good way to work through some of the many books on our bookshelves!
So far, we’ve read The Secret Garden, The Good Thief, The Five Little Peppers, Rascal, Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle, and now we’re into Gudrun (by Alma Johanna Koenig). Along the way, I’ve been discovering some old favorites and enjoying some great lines.
As my little one grows in her understanding of the world (when she drops a spoon while sitting in her high chair, she looks down to the ground to catch sight of it), the books are right there with her, giving her a hint of just how much the world can hold.