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Family and Community

Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Collections  >  Moore
I'll Admit: I Was a Bit Pushy About Reading
By Robin Moore

As soon as I was pregnant with Heidi, I began buying books for her. I was so excited to start a library of children's books. Now I can laugh at some of what I picked out --because I was years off with age-appropriate material.

For example, a book on phonics will have to wait until she's learning to read. And some of the books on world geography and cultures that I bought are way too advanced for an early school age child, much less an infant or toddler. I started reading to her when she was about three months old. But to be honest, I don't think she benefited much from books in those early months. I think what was more important was that I was holding her, talking to her, showing her interesting things to look at ... it could have been a book or a rock and she probably would have reacted the same way.

My introduction of books to Julie, our second child, has been entirely different. It's a natural and casual part of our day -- not forced. She is included in much of the reading I do with Heidi and already seems to enjoy it very much.

Robin and Heidi, at 4 months.
I have to admit, I was a bit pushy about reading to Heidi from the time she was six months to a year. And I was a little disappointed that she didn't act very interested in the content of the books. She usually just wanted to chew on them or flip pages but not listen to the words or focus on the significance of the pictures. Around thirteen months, she suddenly burst into her love of books -- she loved being read to and would sit and look at her books for long periods of time a day.

Around twenty months, she seemed to follow stories better -- plot, conflict resolution, etc. Now she definitely seems to appreciate the plot in stories, even in advanced books of which she is only understanding in parts. For example, she will anticipate logical outcomes the first time we read a book, even books I consider "over her head." And she seems anxious when a character is dealing with a problem that she relates to (for example, the boy in Dogger by Shirley Hughes who has lost his favorite stuffed animal).

I can't begin to speculate how books have helped Heidi to think differently or to conceptualize her world in ways that she might not be doing if we weren't reading as much. I suspect reading has helped her imagination a lot and is teaching her a lot of self-entertainment. Her comprehension and ability to create images in her mind seem evident in the fact that we can read her a lot of text now, with limited pictures, and she still understands a lot of the story.

Terry is beginning to tell Heidi short stories at bedtime -- she listens carefully and anticipates what the characters will do next. She knows the alphabet -- is able to say it and recognize all the letters -- through no effort on our part other than reading ABC books. And she can count 1 to 20 thanks to Mother Goose's "One Two Buckle My Shoe."

I think the rhythm and rhyme of poetry are what captivate Heidi. Some of her favorites don't make any sense and/or I'm highly skeptical as to whether or not she understands much of the content when there aren't accompanying pictures. For example, she has requested the following Mother Goose poem dozens of times:

Heigh-Ho, The Carrion Crow

A carrion crow sat on an oak,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do,
Watching a tailor shape his cloak;
Sing heigh-ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do!
Wife, bring me my old bent bow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do,
That I may shoot yon carrion crow;
Sing heigh-ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do!
The tailor he shot, and missed his mark,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do,
And shot his own sow quite through the heart;
Sing heigh-ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do!
Wife, bring brandy in a spoon,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do!
For our old sow is in a swoon;
Sing heigh-ho, the carrion crow,
Fol de riddle, lol de riddle, hi ding do!

From reading to Heidi, I have analyzed and appreciated what reading means to me. Parenting has been an incredibly humbling experience so far. I know less now than ever before. I love to read for knowledge, insight, perspective, excitement, escapism and experience.

Reading with Heidi has helped to bring our family closer in fun ways. We have tons of references based on allusions or quotes from Heidi's library -- a small canon of literature that is a common language for us. It's funny to have inside jokes with a 2-year-old -- and we do. I could give you a lot of obscure examples that would take explaining, but an easier example for most people to relate to is this: she falls down and we say, "Are you okay, Humpty Dumpty?"

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