I am reading a book that has changed my life. If you think about it, there aren’t too many books that will do that. But this one most certainly has.
When Macy was born, family members and a few friends gave us books. Mostly board books, good for chewing, and a lot of all-time favorites, like Goodnight Moon and Guess How Much I Love You. The first few months of Macy’s life, I have to admit, she didn’t really see many of these books. I was in total survival mode, trying to figure out what would make her stop crying, not worried about introducing her to the world of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
But the bigger she got, the less she cried, and the more I was trying to “fill” her time with fun activities. Listening to music, playing with light-up toys, and reading books. She didn’t pay attention very well and I thought – well, of course. She’s just a baby. You don’t need to read that much to a baby. I’ll just read to her now and again, let her look at some pictures, and kind of pick back up when she’s a little bit older and can sit still.
And then a good friend recommended a book to me. It’s called “The Read Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease. She told me so much about it and I was so excited, I bought it about 5 minutes later on Kindle.
All I have to say is – wow.
The basic question that Jim Trelease is trying to answer is – why should we read aloud to our children? But the way he does it – through many other questions parents often think about – is brilliant. He uses study after study to teach that children who are read to by their parents (especially by their fathers) will have a huge advantage in life, schooling, etc. One of my favorite points he makes is that children learn to love the activities that their parents participate in with them. I think back on my own childhood. My mom and dad often read to me. I often saw them with books. For pleasure. On trips, we each would bring our own book and read – on planes, car rides, and once we got to our destination. I learned as a child that reading was associated with fun. The way we teach this to our own children is to read to them.
I also learned that sometimes you just need a little patience – especially with a toddler. When I would try to read to Macy, there were times she would just jump off my lap after 2 pages. I’d let her go play with whatever she was looking for, but the next time we were reading, she would stay in my lap for half a book. And then a whole book. And now, as a 17 month old, she will sit in my lap and let me read to her sometimes as many as 6-8 books in a row. My little monkey, who climbs up our furniture, never stops moving, and runs full speed ahead, will actually sit still that long – if it involves reading a book.
I’m not doing the book justice – the case studies he goes through are really fascinating (kids who are read to versus kids who are not), his book treasury at the end is really helpful, and his thorough way of tackling each individual question makes the book an easy read.
I realize, of course, that I sound really nerdy right now.
All in all, this book caused me to re-think how I spend my time with Macy. Of course, we play outside, kick a ball, stack blocks up, bang on pots and pans (at least someone is getting some use out of them), and put our baby doll in the stroller for a ride. But we also read books. Lots and lots of books. At any point, my couch is home to about 8-10 different books. I’ve placed some of Macy’s favorites on the lower shelf so that she can reach them, pull them down, and look through them – which she actually does! One of the words she uses most is book! If she’s upset about something, I can just say – Macy, go get Mommy a book – and she’ll do it and climb in my lap and we’ll read.
All this to say if you’re the mommy of a little one – or a big one for that matter! – I would recommend this book. If for nothing else, his treasury at the end of the book is pretty amazing. I picked books off of it right before Jeff’s parents came and they were gracious enough to buy and tote these all the way to this side of the world.
Each time I pick up a book to read to Macy, I hope I am teaching her that – a. I love her and want to spend time with her. b. Reading is fun. and c. The Very Hungry Caterpillar is very hungry. 🙂