From the very beginning, Caroline was a bibliophile. She would sit content for hours listening to story after story. Long or short she loved them all. Offering to read a book is nearly a never fail way to pull her out of a funk. She is the child who I find when it is too quiet among a pile of books lost in imagination. We would NEVER brag about our parenting skills or take credit for any of the darling and genius ways of our children. Accept for maybe sometimes in secret behind closed doors we might do a high five when no one is looking. Look what we are doing, we think. We are raising a genius, the next noble/pulitzer/grammy winning artist right there, all thanks to our stellar skills in fostering a love of reading. This parenting gig is really so easy.
And then second kid.
It took me quite a while before I noticed something was different. I was, after all, still spending much of my day reading books to Caroline. In fact, book reading was my go to activity when stuck on the couch nursing. We read a book together every night, a quick read for Elliott, before Caroline would get her own private Big Girl book time, usually with Dad. If we were reading, Elliott was right there, so surely he was into it like Caroline always was.
But then sometime around the time he became mobile, I noticed a lack of cozy lap book reading. In fact, I had to remind myself to read a book before putting him down for a nap because it was easy to skip over that part. He wouldn't go to the book shelf and pull down books. He wasn't bringing me a favorite book or flipping the pages. Bed time story time was actually more reading aloud to Caroline while Elliott crawled circles around or on top of us. I didn't make a big deal about it.
But it did make me sad.
A child who doesn't like books? What do I do with that? But he must! Or he will never get into college! He will fail in school and thus life and it will be all my fault!
Here is another example of a minor over reactive set back. Like the eating thing, I had to take off my mom hat for a minute and put on the therapist one. I had to stop and think, what would I tell my client in this situation, use my Intuitive Parenting. Because this was a VERY common theme with many of the children I saw. An active child with little to no interest in books leading to a stressed out and sweaty parent who JUST WANTS TO GET TO THE END OF THE BOOK for once. DOES THE BUNNY ACTUALLY GO TO SLEEP OR DOES HE KEEP SAYING GOOD NIGHT TO EVERY SINGLE THING HE SETS HIS EYES ON! SOMEONE TELL ME PLEASE!
Parenting is not one dimensional. Strategies that were easy with one must shift for the characteristics of another. So I relaxed a bit and started to look for the methods that worked. Here are a few lessons I have learned from my Book Avoiding Child (I wanted to say Book Hating Child but that seemed harsh.)
1. Read aloud while they are moving around the room.
This was my main style of reading to Elliott for nearly a year of his life. I read while he nursed. I read while he cooed. I read while he rolled, crawled, climbed and cruised around us. This passive reading at first seems like just that, a passive non engaging activity. What could they be learning? But even the process of listening is important for speech and language development. Have you heard of the Thirty Million Word Gap? Studies are showing that even the amount of words children hear throughout the day can make a big impact on their learning development. So he is too squirmy to sit with me? Let him roam. Read at the park while
they are swinging. Take turns between pages to tickle and jump. Movement is part of learning too and some children always need more. Meanwhile, I'll keep reading and building that vocabulary.
2. Read books that have BIG EXCITING sounds.
I first noticed a shift in Elliott's interest when I would pick up books that involved really dramatic reading. If I could make him laugh, he was hooked. The more contrasting and silly my voice went, the more he paid attention. He would anticipate each sound and rhythym of the story which would send him into greater giggles. I probably could have just read any book that way and it would have worked. But these books by Leslie Patricelli were some of our favorites:
Being really really quiet and then really really loud worked every time. Every single page repeated the same inflection and this loud loving kid would get so excited for the loud sounds. Others by the same author use this style of contrasting elements, great for readers but also for learning concepts.
Also there is not a parent out there that doesn't have a favorite Sandra Boynton book. They are all very fun and silly and easy to use dramatic reading. Elliott is loving this one now because he thinks all my facial expressions are hilarious.
3. Read about what they love.
I taught my child to read with this book. True story. Ball was one of his first words. He can spot one anywhere. I paired this book with a great set of balls for Christmas and he has loved both ever since. This book has one word throughout: ball. It is fun and sweet and although he certainly doesn't get the story, he will point to the pages in the book and repeat "Ball? Ball. Ball!" just the way we read it. Genius.
Finding a book that has your child's favorite thing of the week is a perfect way to catch their attention. Even if it is something SUPER annoying like a Paw Patrol character or something like that. Swallow your pride and pick up the book. I'm a snob for pretty and artistic books. But if he is interested, the book is doing its job.
While way too gender specific for my liking, Elliott is also into the classic things that go. This book Go Go Go Stop is going on my wish list. I think it will capture his attention with the trucks while also being fun and dramatic to read. See #2.
And finally, one last pep talk, more for myself than anyone. These little ones have a mind and body of their own. Give yourself some grace. And trust, what seems like a forever stage will change before you even notice. For me, while I imagine for awhile book reading will not be the sweet and cuddly imaginary world escape that it is for his sister and I, my hope is with adjusting my method, and my expectations, Elliott will learn to appreciate what a story can bring.