My son is now almost one. Till recently he would protest and try and wriggle away when he realized we were going to sit and read.
For me, the one who prides her book collection and has always loved books, their smell and the new perspectives they bring, it was really disappointing. I remember making my husband read to my moving tummy when the high-energy bub was still inside. Right from when he was a newborn, I read to him and convinced myself we have a reader in our midst.
Once he could move more and had opinions though, all that changed. From 4 months onwards he would start showing impatience when I brought out his books. If I placed him on my lap, he would screech and wriggle until I had to drop the book and walk with him to calm him down.
When he started sitting and grabbing things he would get incredibly upset when I tried to read to him and grab the book out of my hands and start chewing on it. This continued until he could crawl. Once he started crawling, he would fling the book out of my hand and take off, away from me at top speed.
I assumed that because he is a high intensity spirited baby, he might never be able to sit still and be peaceful enough to read. My husband has never been a reader so I worried that the little one may take after him.
Nevertheless I pursued.
How did this bouncing ball convert then from running away from books to being enthralled by them?
- Since he turned around 9 months I started making it part of our daily ritual. Once he woke up from his morning nap at nearly noon, I would sit on the floor of his room with a handful of books and read whether he was listening or not.
- At first, I gave him his favourite toys to play near me, while I read out loud.
- Initially he would come to me and grab the book out of my hands, chew on it and throw it far away. I would ignore and pick up another one and read, he’d repeat.
- Then he got bored after a couple of days of this game as I continued reading. He played with his toys and ignored me while I read aloud.
- I read books, which rhymed, and books with interesting characters. I’d change my voice for each character and in a book that had melodious rhyming lines; I’d make sure I read it with great gusto. I basically performed for him and laughed aloud, while reading so he saw me having a great time.
- Slowly, he would come near me after he was done playing and try and see what I was doing.
- And finally, he totally ignored his toys as soon as the books made an appearance and sit with me hanging on every word.
Today I don’t even bother removing any toys. All I say is that it is time for your books and he rushes on all fours to his bookshelf and patiently waits till I choose the books we will read together. He sits next to me and takes in every word with so much enthusiasm that I really have to wonder how much he understands.
He still mouths and chews on everything, which is why it’s amazing how I have some paperbacks and paper books and not all board books, and yet he doesn’t treat a single book badly. Not one pop up book has been torn, not one book with lifting flaps has been grabbed and not one paper book has been demolished.
He rocks front and back while I am reading, something he does when he is happy (when he is eating something he likes for example).
Well, I’m looking forward to reading together with him for many years to come, and I am glad I persevered in making him build a positive association with books.
Thanks for reading! In my next post, I’ll talk about some of my little son’s favourite books. Tell me what your experience has been in cultivating a reader.