After thinking through how we want to be intentional with our children’s books moving forward, I’m looking back at the things we have done so far to foster a love of books in Nora. Right now we feel like great parents who did everything right when it came to reading, but it’ll be super interesting to see if it was really just Nora and that we had nothing to do with it (like so much of parenting seems to be) or if Charlie will also find a love of reading. Either way, I’m trying to remember all that we did so that I can do my best to set Charlie (and any future children we may be blessed with) up to have a love of books too.
1) Start ‘em young
While I was pregnant, I read that it was important to expose your kiddos to books and all sorts of words from an early age, and I took that to heart. I remember feeling so silly reading to my one month old, but also it gave me a way to interact with Nora when I didn’t know quite what to do with a little baby. She didn’t really get into it until later into her first year, but some of those first snuggles with books are really special memories and ingrained into our little family a love of reading together that I hope will last. I think by introducing reading as a bonding activity from a really young age, we made it more accessible for both Nora and for us as she continued to develop. It became a go-to activity instead of an afterthought.
Embarrassingly, I kind of forgot that reading to small babies was a thing with Charlie until a couple months ago. I guess that’s the problem of the second child. However, he got to soak in all of the books that I was reading to Nora while he was also on my lap or wandering the room, so I don’t really feel too too bad. When I do remember to read just to him, he’s been really into all of the touch and feel books. His favorites right now are the “That’s not my…” series through Usborne and any of the Alphaprints ones. Nora liked those too, but Charlie LOVES them. Nora seemed to be more into books with rhyming like One, Two, Three! by Sandra Boynton (really anything by her is great!) and my personal favorite, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. It’s been really interesting to watch as their tastes in toys, books, and activities already differ! If I recall Nora correctly, the flap books will come next developmentally for Charlie (though with his ability to destroy things, we might need to hold off for awhile!) Some of Nora’s favorites were Where Is Baby’s Belly Button? and the Usborne Little Red Penguin series, and I’m excited to bring those out for Charlie to read when he’s ready!
2) Never say no to reading and read often
As Nora became more interested in books, I did my best to read to her whenever she’d ask for as long as she would listen. We’d often read first thing in the morning while I was still coming to (I’m not really a morning person). It was a really sweet way to start our day, and I’m kind of sad that I’ve gone away from that in our new morning routine. Thinking about this now, I might have to start doing this again in our mornings! We have also always associated books with naptime and bedtime, and then sprinkled them throughout playtime. When we were trying to get Nora to sleep on her own (at 14 months…), we finally got to the point that we’d leave her in her room, and she’d read books for 5 minutes- 2 hours, and then finally fall asleep (our kids really aren’t fans of sleeping). We figured there was nothing wrong with her reading as long as she wanted if she eventually fell asleep!
Of course, I’ve had to start bending my “never say no to reading” rule now that her books are getting longer (those 5 Minute Stories add up!) and Charlie is needing more attention. I do still try to make a point of sitting down and reading with her for a good amount of time each day, though. I’m much better at reading than doing pretend voices for all of her animals, so it’s always my first suggestion during Charlie’s morning nap and my Nora alone time.
3) Be surrounded with books
We have books everywhere. There is a basket of children’s picture books in the living room, a basket of Charlie’s books next to the recliner, a bookshelf of board books in Nora’s room, and even potty training books on the toilet. Not to mention the books Nora carries into different rooms and forgets about. I think it’s so important to be in close reach of books as it makes it easier to pick up a book to start reading. It’s also, then, a reminder of reading as an activity to both the kiddos and to me. Charlie is just now starting to grab books out of his basket or off the shelf in Nora’s room, and while he’s doing it just to explore and make a mess, it reminds me that I should be reading to him (a reminder which I apparently need!).
We also like to make a point of reading books out and about. I like to have at least a couple books in the car for when we’re going places for Nora to read- this works well for books that are duplicated! I’m realizing that I should also start putting some in for Charlie too! Nora has a knack for finding books everywhere we go. There are sections of books at both the children’s museum and the mall we go to (it’s a really awesome, child-friendly mall!), and we also try to make it to the library at least once a week for Toddler Time and/or just to read. Reading out in the wild is way more exciting than at home! It’s also really good for us to switch up which books we are reading and find new ones that we might want to get for home.
4) There’s no such thing as too many books
We were blessed to have people gift a favorite book instead of a card for Nora’s baby shower to really start off our collection of books. Since then, between gifts and our own book-buying addiction, we’ve more than filled up Nora’s bookshelves. I get sick of reading the same stories over and over, so I like to have enough that we can mix it up a little bit. We currently have too many board books than what can fit on Nora’s shelf, so I rotate them once a week to freshen her up and make it seem like she has a whole new shelf of books to choose from. Nora LOVES new books, so this tends to work pretty well. Whenever an actually new book enters our household, Nora wants to read it what seems like hundreds of times in those first few days of having it. It’s fun to see that excitement come from something as simple as books.
As we grow out of our basket of children’s picture books, I’m looking at ways to store them. In our someday house, I’d love to have a playroom with a library wall (#bigdreams). I’m really eyeing up either this or this shelf so that we can start displaying our books with the fronts out instead of just the spines.
There’s a meme I saw on Facebook that sums up how I feel about this subject:
Tony and I love having our own books around and that addiction has poured over into our children’s books. We hope to foster a love of books in our family that continues throughout our children’s lives, as it has in ours. These are just some of the ways that we’ve attempted to do that with Nora, and it’ll be a wait and see if it also inspires the same love in Charlie.
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