Passing it On
I was a voracious reader as a kid. From about eight years old on, I read constantly, but on my own -- I have no memory of my parents reading to me. I used to read every day for one or two hours, but it's difficult to find the time now and I miss it. My wife, Robin, still manages to read a minimum of a book a week during the pockets of quiet time when our baby, Julie, is breast-feeding or our two-year old, Heidi, is napping. She loves having this time to herself, reading her own books, but gets a little frustrated because when she wants to pass them on for me to read, they just stack up on the shelf.
I do read to Heidi almost every day though, and we've been doing this for as long as I can remember. Between Robin reading to her while she's feeding Julie and me telling her stories at night, Heidi gets read to at least one to two hours a day.
|Terry reads with Heidi and a friend.
I actually didn't think we'd be reading to Heidi as early as we did, but Robin did the research and started right away, so I did too. It was a way to spend time with Heidi -- it was relaxing and fun and it has just evolved into a daily thing.
I've been reading The Real Mother Goose to Heidi, which is filled with poems and nursery rhymes, and for a few weeks straight, this was all she wanted to hear. She memorized and now recites, "One, Two Buckle My Shoe." It's been great for me because I'm remembering some of the rhymes and poems I knew as a kid. Of course, there are so many I don't know, but Heidi and I are learning them together.
Listening and Learning
Starting around six months, Heidi would actually sit down and look at the pages like she was following along. She didn't have any comprehension but she was enjoying the act. And by one year, she loved books. Now she can sit for an hour or more and won't get bored. I'm the one who stops, sometimes after a half-hour or forty-five minutes.
We have shelves with hundreds of her books, and Heidi has her favorites. She'll go to the shelf and pick one out -- there are about ten she'll pick over and over -- and the other night she picked out an old picture book. It's full of objects that you'd find in a house, like table, spoon, fork … she used to point to objects when we said a word, and she used to just love that. But now she opens the book and she's just bored. Now she's into story lines. She likes to read books in their entirety -- from beginning to end.
There's the story of Dogger, by Shirley Hughes, about a boy who has a stuffed animal named Dogger, who he takes everywhere with him. Heidi has a teddy she carries around with her, and she made a correlation between the two stuffed animals. In the story, Dave loses Dogger, and when we read that part, Heidi starts to cry. She'll say, "Mommy, Mommy, find Dogger," or "Lost Dogger," before he actually loses him. Within the last month or so she's become really interested in plots and complete stories. Shortly after she turned two, she could follow a story.
The books we read to Heidi are getting longer and longer. Just a few months ago she used to turn pages to get to the end, and now she sits back, looks at the pages, and makes comments. Dogger is about twenty pages long and takes about five minutes to read. She can sit still for the whole thing. Now she probably sits still for a ten-minute book.
"History of Today" — Bedtime Stories
I also tell Heidi stories at night since it's my job to put her to bed. We share what I call "History of Today," which is about everything she did during the day. I tell her what she did, and if I wasn't there, I ask Robin about what they did. I think it's a great imagination exercise -- I can see her mind roll back as I'm telling the stories. It's similar to reading because of what it asks of the imagination -- there's similar development happening.
I came up with "History of Today" just from talking with her before bed. I've been doing it for three or four months now and she just loves it -- she asks for it. She knows there are two versions: one for naptime and one for bedtime, which is longer. Heidi has gotten to the point where she'll interject comments. I leave spaces for her to fill in, and it's much more like a conversation than it used to be.