To my great delight, my 18-month-old daughter loves books–or “buhs” as she enthusiastically refers to them. There is no question about how essential books are for a child, at practically whatever age. I have always encouraged books and read her stories, but I think something else has also helped to inspire her just as much. I think it’s because I read too.
You will hear this often from me. One cannot minimize the importance of living by example for children. In fact, deciding to embody the environment and lifestyle you choose through your own actions is one of the key precepts of this blog. This simple idea is exactly what I’m talking about when I say you should read for your kids as well as to them. I think sometimes when we try to steer our kids towards healthy things, we forget that we also need them just as much. So, in order to encourage my daughter to like books more, I read a lot myself. Babies learn a great deal, if not almost everything, by example. They watch you very closely and attempt to emulate whatever you do. So, by all means, have story-time and read your kids a ton of children’s books, but I think it is equally important for you to find the time to read for yourself around them.
This is a win-win situation because it means I get to read again. I had been leaving off my own reading and I missed my books. But I realize now that there is always going to be something else to do, and we don’t need an “excuse” to read. There are very good reasons for even the busiest parent to take the time to pick up a book. It sets a really great example for everyone in the house, it relaxes you, and, hopefully, it stimulates learning and thinking in your own mind which you can then pass on to your children.
I truly believe this has worked for me and my girl. As I said, my daughter loves books. She reads them while she is being changed, she is a big fan of them in the car, and, even under two, she often sits down with a pile of books and flips through them, pointing things out. Most tellingly, she often asks me (by pointing and saying the word) for MY books, and all the non-children books on the higher shelf. These are not picture books by any means, but she is interested in flipping through them nonetheless–perhaps because she sees mommy do the same. I hope she keeps on asking for them as she grows up.