A new parent talks: learning how to read every day

Feb 27, 2013
When you are pregnant, you have so many ideas about what parenthood is going to be like. You have months to plan everything. (From experience I can say that is even truer if you happen to be put on months of bed rest!) And for us, a family that was reading to our daughters even before they were born, there was never a question of if I was going to read to our children but what I would read to them. (I was definitely inspired by our Read Every Day campaign!) So we prepared for all the reading we’d be doing: When Michael talked about the books he was reading to his daughter and son every night I made sure to note his recommendations. A pair of bookshelves was securely attached to walls and began to be filled with brightly colored classic children’s stories. A small library was painstakingly curated for our yet unborn daughters. We were set. A pair of librarians was ready to welcome a pair of tiny readers into the world. And then. One recent day in a blur of feedings, diaper changes, and blissful naps I looked at the calendar and came to the realization that my girls were 6 weeks old. It hit me then that I had not read to them even once. That wasn’t the plan. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know the benefits of reading to children every day even children as tiny as mine. I am pretty sure I cried. I looked at the bookcases to choose a book to read to them. It took me twenty minutes to choose a book to read to them. I guess there was a part of me that wanted to make up for lost time. When I was pregnant, even though I knew the importance of reading to my babies, I didn’t realize that doing anything with infants was at best a juggling act. I tried reading with them cuddled on my lap, which didn’t work because of their age and lack of neck control. Oh, and I couldn’t hold both them and the book. I then tried to read after putting them in their vibrating chairs. They fell asleep before Clifford outgrew Emily Elizabeth’s apartment. It wasn’t how I envisioned story time with my children going. It felt more like I was “doing” story time rather than sharing the experience with them. Did I mention I put a lot of pressure on myself? Well, I did. I knew how important this was and I felt like I was failing. Taking a deep breath, I decided to experiment. I tried shorter books with bright, simple illustrations such as We Belong Together by Joyce Wan or You Are My Sunshine by Caroline Jayne Church. I turned the chairs around so that we were all facing the same way. I didn’t put too much pressure on us. And it worked. It wasn’t perfect every day but we were reading every day. I had never been a parent before I had them…but then, they hadn’t been read to before they had me. My girls and I have been growing together and some days you just have to trust in the process. Our “reading” time right now is a time to grow together. Each day, my children get a little older, and each day, we learn new things. I tell everyone that we read together because it is good for them. And that’s true, of course — we know that. But I will be honest: I really read to them because it is a break in our day to sit together and learn something new. Every family is different. There is no one right answer. Give yourselves time to learn what will work for you. It may not come as easily as you envisioned but every day it is more than worth the effort.