Last night at dinner we had a literature discussion with our teenage daughter. We began reading to Allie before she could hold her head up. Every night my husband and I would lie on either side of her, hold the book up above her sweet face and read. I wanted to raise a reader and I felt we had to get an early start.
As a baby and toddler, Allie loved books. The book shelves in her room sagged under the weight of them. Even as she outgrew them, they were saved for reference materials in case she wanted to revert back to an old favorite. It came as no surprise when she got to pre-school and showed an aptitude for reading.
As she grew into elementary and middle school years, though, it seemed she would only read those books that were assigned to her or things like Captain Underpants and books about sassy young ladies. I would try and tempt her with what I thought were irresistible titles, but she never read for pleasure. In fact, in middle school, she learned to skim books and still do well. This left me wondering what I could have done differently. I expected to have one of those kids I’d have to scold for reading at the table. Where did we go wrong? A young neighbor who also happened to be Allie’s 3rd & 4th grade teacher told me not to worry. She said Allie had just not found the genre that spoke to her, but that she would one day. And my neighbor was absolutely right. One day in her freshman year, she began reading books just for herself, and although I would not refer to her as a voracious reader, she is a reader nonetheless.
I had no idea the impression that early reading had on her until our dinner discussion last night. Though she could not recall titles, she remembered all kind of images from books we had read to her when she was quite young. The book about the misbehaving bear (The Trouble with Ben), the one about the boy with crutches and the sea monster (The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer by Jimmy and Amy Carter), the book about the ugly fish (Big Al) and much to my husband’s delight, she vividly remembered the book that was always his to read to her – Jamberry. I saved many of her books and plan to bring them down from the attic one day soon so we can all reminisce.
My own mother used to make the time from what must have been an extremely hectic part of her evening to read to me. And I had my favorites, too. I can still hear my own mom reading:
In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines
They left the house at half past nine
In two straight lines, rain or shine