Monday, February 28, 2011

You Don't Eat Books

For as long as I can remember I have always truly loved to read.  In fact, as family legend would have you believe, my love for books started well before my first birthday when I would insist that my parents read me book after book each night before bed.  It didn’t take long for me to memorize these books and my poor parents couldn’t skip a page or even a word on a page without my protest.  When my thirteen months younger sister came along, she took delight in watching me dissolve into hysterics each time she put a book in her mouth.  “You don’t eat books!” I would shriek, my belief system on the subject already firmly in place at not quite two years old.  At five I was taken to a mystical place called a library.  I was told that I could take home any books I wanted, and they had a lot to choose from.  Two weeks later the love affair ended, however, when I was informed that I would not be allowed to keep the books that I’d grown so fond of.  I have never been a fan of libraries since that incident and have always preferred to buy my books so that I can reread them at my leisure (though, admittedly, that rarely happens).
Anytime I’ve ever dreamed of having a child, one of the first thoughts I’d have was, “I hope my child loves to read.”  As a teacher, I want this because I know that a love of reading will lead to a much higher chance of academic success.  As an avid reader myself, I want this because I want to share it with my child.  While pregnant I would read whatever novel I was currently working on out loud to the little developing fetus in my belly.  Once Emmalee was born I continued this practice, reading softly from the latest YA paranormal romance release (my, slightly embarrassing, preferred genre) while she dozed in my arms.  I don’t know if this had any influence on her or not, but many of the parenting books I’d read recommended it (though they might not have mentioned paranormal romances, specifically).  And who am I to argue with the experts?
By 5 months old I was reading Emmalee children’s board books and was amazed at how she’d focus on the story, listening to the words and studying the pictures.  Our favorite, a book called On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman, was quickly memorized by both of us.  Well, maybe Emmalee hadn’t exactly memorized it, but she recognized it.  When she was fussy I could recite the book and she’d calm down, smiling and cooing at her favorite parts as if it were in front of her.  By 8 months old, when I got serious about implementing a bed time routine, I began reading Emmalee 2 or 3 books a night and she’d sit through each one, seemingly enraptured.  Now that she is 11 months old and able to get around, she will crawl to her bookshelf, pick up a book and hold it out to me with an insistent “Uh!”  And, even more amazingly, she will then sit and listen intently (most of the time).  She is showing preference for certain books, and will insist I read some books over and over again.  All in all, I’d say I just might have gotten my wish.  Emmalee seems to love books.  And she doesn't even try to eat them.
I’ve heard some parents complain that they do not like reading to their child.  Honestly, I don’t blame them.  Moo, Baa, La La La is not exactly stimulating for someone out of diapers.  But I am an exception to this because I genuinely enjoy reading Emmalee her books, especially at bed time.  In fact, it is one of my most favorite times of day.  Though the stories themselves are not exactly intriguing, I love feeling like I am doing something good for my daughter.  There is a lot of guess work when it comes to parenting, but instilling a love of books is something I can be sure that I’m doing right.  I also love the possibilities that lie ahead.  Sure, now we’re just sharing a love of “Biscuit,” but how long will it really be before we can have late night book chats about the awesomeness of Twilight?  (No, I don’t plan on growing out of that one!)

A List of Books I’ve Memorized (a.k.a. Emmalee’s favorites):
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano
Mommy’s Best Kisses by Margaret Anastas
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton
Where is Love, Biscuit? by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

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