Growing appetite for reading

It is now a well established fact that reading to your child from an early age nurtures a lifelong love for reading. Some begin reading to their children as early as a few weeks old while they are still in their mother’s womb. Others begin after the child is born, holding up colorful picture books into their faces. Whatever the case, there is no rule of thumb as to when to begin reading to your child. The process can also either be parent initiated or child directed as you shall soon see with my two boys.

Parent Initiated Reading

Being an aspiring first time mum, I was motivated to do the “right” things for my child. So when Xxm was born, I was determined to establish a regular reading habit for him. Meow and I starting reading to him before his evening bedtime from the time he was about 8 months old. Prior to this, I showed him picture books out of spontaneity. Back then, when he could only lie down, it was easier to just read to him though you are not getting much of a response. When he could turn, you can still stuck a book right in front of his face. When he started to crawl, there wasn’t a moment of peace but it was about this time we began reading to him on a more regular basis. He is immensely curious with his environment at this stage and we capitalized on it by directing his curiosity towards books. Initially, he wasn’t the least bit interested. He threw them, chewed them, tore them… What’s new? Most nights, it seemed like a tornado has descended upon our room, as books, toys and puzzles are strewn across the entire room. Despite these, every evening, we still asked if he liked to read a book. Sometimes, we made him sit with us for our chosen book. Other times, we encourage him to crawl to the bookshelf to pick up a book himself. But the best time is when he has a bottle in his mouth. That is the only moment he will listen to us read an entire book. However, by the time he turned two, we saw our efforts pay off. Suddenly, he became more attentive towards books. He will come to us with a book and request to be read to repeatedly. These books had just plain text. I didn’t have to entice him with sound books, books on cars, planes and the like. He is in love with the story! You know you have hit the jackpot. It certainly helped that I found books which captured his interest. Previously I would simply borrow any book that caught my eye at the library. It was not until I stumbled upon Charlotte Mason homeschooling ways and her philosophy to not introduce twaddle to our children, and the concept of living books which compelled me to be more careful of my book selections. I started to research into popular children classics. The first book that was a complete and over the top success with XXM was Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown. I have a separate writeup on this book here. In my humble opinion, it was an unlikely phenomenal success. Thereafter, he started to have a growing list of nightly must reads including a popular chinese series called 小熊宝宝绘本.

I have come to realize that many of these good books are available at our local library. The people at the national library are doing a very good job in bringing in many good literature for our children. One of my favorite national library jaunts is the one at Toa Payoh. The children’s section is spacious, cheerful, and it has a greater variety of books than the ones near home. I usually have more surprises when I search for books at the Toa Payoh branch. Last weekend, I was delighted to find a good number of excellent children’s books there.

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We went through all the books in just one night. The Eric Carle books struck a chord with him the most. He particularly enjoys Papa, Please Get The Moon For Me and The Very Busy Spider. The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr and Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell resonate with him too.

Child Directed Reading

It was a matter of circumstances that I could not establish a reading routine with Xmm like what I have done with Xxm. Xmm sleeps separately from us, with my helper (see story here). I rarely have the opportunity to tuck Xmm to bed due to my schedule. Nights when I am home, I need to tuck Xxm to bed as I had mentioned earlier, he likes being read to before bedtime nowadays. What was truly heartening for me was the fact that Xmm is beginning to be receptive towards books too. He loves the “flip-the-flap” pages from Dear Zoo from our latest library haul. I could read the entire book to him from beginning to the end as he works his little fingers on the flaps.

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Initially, I thought it was because I had got an interesting book for him to play with. But Xmm proved me wrong. He got out an old colours book that I had previously bought for Xxm (who had absolutely no interest in it) and began flipping through the pages, pointing his little finger at the pictures he was familiar in (see pic). I was truly amazed as Xxm had not exhibited qualities like Xmm had when he was at this age. He was suddenly “reading” on his own!

So for Xmm now, though I have not yet managed to fix a reading routine for us, I am slowly working a book or two in whatever playtime I have with him. I am very heartened by Xmm’s efforts.

Children are such amazing creatures. They grow so beautifully in their own ways, with or without intervention from us. I feel very blessed that my children are growing up so wonderfully, despite me being away from them pretty much of the time. I can’t be more happier than knowing this.

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