As we really are.
September 02, 2010

About two months ago, Charlotte came to me with a book in her hand.  She handed it to me, then held open her arms for me to pluck her up on my lap.  And then she began to flip the pages and listen as I read her a story.

It was the very first time that story-time in our home just CLICKED.

Happily reading one of her favorites (Alternative ABC’s) together before bed.

I receive a few e-mails a week from people who have questions about reading to their children.  Their baby is trying to eat the books!  Their toddler is ripping apart the pages!  How do they stop their kid from flipping the pages at lightning speed?  How do they convince them to sit still during reading time instead of running around like a loon?

They appeal to me, they tell me, because they’ve seen the photographs of us reading with Charlotte.  And it looks like we know what we’re doing.

I tell them all the same thing: we don’t.

Some days, my daughter tries to eat the books.  Some days, she rips out pages.  Some days, she flips the pages at lightning speed and runs around like a loon while I read passages out loud from books I’m reading.  Charlotte has heard just as many excerpts from Michael Crichton as she has from Mem Fox.  Some days, she screams during story-time.  Some days, she walks over a pile of books or bends back the spines.  Or throws them off the shelf.

Most days, she wants me to read the same book fifteen times over.  And then fifteen times over again.  And maybe again while we’re at it.

Not so happily reading together maybe, um, ten seconds later.

The truth is that reading to your young child is like any other part of parenting: an evolution.  There is no one-size-fits-all cure for the kid who loses interest after two pages, there is only patiently enduring your baby’s reading-related phases and keeping your fingers crossed that they will come out on the other end loving books.  The key is to listen to them, watch their cues, follow their lead, and just keep trying.  Keep visiting the library.  Keep talking about books.  KEEP READING.

If you do, one day you’ll look up to see your child climbing into your lap, eager to share a story together.  And it will make your heart sing.

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  1. By on September 02, 2010

    I agree wholeheartedly with this.  With my son, story time was about the only thing he would sit still for, so it was pretty easy.  He is now almost 4 and continues to love books.  My daughter
    (10 months) wants to chew the books and gets obsessed with keeping the books closed.  But I continue to read to her because I know that eventually she’ll want to sit and read with me too.

  2. By Elin on September 02, 2010

    I love this post!  Emmeline is totally obsessed with books, and sometimes she likes having them read to her!  She will always sit still for her favorites (and we read those 15x15 times at a sitting).  Most of the time she likes to flip the pages super fast, walk on them, stack them up, bring them to us and let us read one page before she gets bored… you see the trend.  I know she loves them, though because now when she wakes up in the middle of the night to nurse, she always points at the drawer where Goodnight Moon “sleeps!“

  3. By Tabitha (From Single to Married) on September 02, 2010

    I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one!  A month or two ago Henry was great at sitting and letting me read to him (about five months old).  But now that he’s crawling, he doesn’t like to sit in my lap for long periods of time so reading has become a futile effort.  Not to fear though, we will continue to try and eventually he will enjoy it again.  :)

  4. By on September 02, 2010

    I second everything you said. I collected books for Jude before he was born (and a few before he was even a consideration). I knew I wanted him to Love to read and be read to. When he was itty bitty he would lay there. Then when he figured out the whole being mobile thing I thought I’d done something wrong. Hadn’t I been training him For storytime? Shouldn’t he get it? No, he didn’t. I would occationally get frustrated, but didn’t give up. Then one day… It clicked. He hands me books from the night stand when we wake up in the morning. He points to his book shelves when we’re in his room getting dressed in the morning. He picks out books for bed time. He could sit on his stool next to his bin of board books and flip through them aimlessly for 30 minutes at a time (for him, that’s the equivilant of hours of our attention). Now, I’m so happy I stuck with it.

  5. By kk @ the mom diggity on September 02, 2010

    my daughter is 5 months and i read to her all the time and have been since she was born. she LOVES her books, and thinks they taste super yummy…but it makes me happy to see her now trying to turn the pages with her tiny fingers and look at the pictures. I can’t wait for the day she crawls up in my lap and asks me to read to her!!

  6. By on September 02, 2010

    The good thing about reading each book a hundred bazillion times is that you memorize it. When you are stuck someplace waiting and have no books with you, you can recite the book to your child. Ours would sit raptly while we recited. I think they followed along in their heads, remembering the pictures in the books. 

      Hop, Hop, Hop, I am a Yop. All I like to do is hop.

    23 years later, some of those books still linger in my head.

  7. By on September 02, 2010

    so, I love to read with my boy. we’re doing really good with that. But the thing that I want to know is HOW do you get your stomach so flat and cute (in the top pic)? seriously?? I’m running 3x a week and doing my silly ab dvd 3x a week AND my baby is three months older than yours, and no such luck.

    but I’m reading with him. so we’re doing ok. :)

  8. By Sarah Christensen on September 02, 2010

    Rachel - Lucky genes?

  9. By on September 02, 2010

    Sarah, thank you for addressing this. I’ve been jealous of how attentive Charlotte is in your storytime photos! I’m a voracious reader, so I’ve been bummed that my son doesn’t seem to like storytime. But after reading this post/comments, I’m glad to know that there’s hope for us!

  10. By Amber on September 03, 2010

    This is so true! Nate does all of those things too - the ripping, the skipping to the end after only reading the first page, the throwing. Then he went through a phase recently where he didn’t want his nighttime story. I was so sad! And just like you suggest - I went with the flow - and guess what. My book loving baby is back. I keep telling myself…EVERYTHING is just a phase.

  11. By Megan R. on September 03, 2010

    Yep, totally true.  Finnley used to HATE story time.  But, I would read anyway.  Just recently she has started to become obsessed with books.  She mostly loves to find her “favorites” and sit down and open random pages.  This lasts for awhile.  AT night I still read to her, but I let her pick out the books.  Sometimes she flips impatiently through the pages, and I just make up / totally shorten the story to keep up with her speed.  Hey, whatever works.  I am just happy she enjoys these times, and I know she will eventually love the stories, too.  (right now, she mostly loves the obnoxious sounds I make up for various parts / characters…whatever!)

  12. By *emilie* on September 03, 2010

    Alice will stay still for bedtime story.
    the rest of the time, it’s mostly me reading out loud to her while she’s doing her thing, and then crawling back to me to see what’s DAT in my hands.
    it makes me so happy to read all the comments on your post. to know that many moms and dads enjoy reading to their kids. Moms around me don’t… and it’s such a shame…

  13. By emily bilbrey on September 03, 2010

    great post!  you’ve stated the perfect overview of what reading to a toddler is like - not a perfect science, but still a heartwarming and worthwhile activity!

    my girl is 16.5 months old and is FINALLY enjoying sitting in my lap to read a book.  she turns the pages for me, and points to the words.  i absolutely love it!  but sometimes?  she still takes the book out of my hand, trows it on the floor, and stands on it.  *sigh*

    love this!  cheers!

  14. By on September 03, 2010

    Well, thanks goodness for Board Books and Soft Books!

  15. By on September 04, 2010

    I’m a new mom (and formally) a first grade teacher, and reading with your child is SO important. Sarah-  I love your book reviews and suggestions.

    At this age they are learning so much about reading that you might not even realize- there is a front and a back, how to turn pages, to look at the pictures, that there are words in the book, etc. I let my daughter Natalie hold and eat the books all she wants after we are done reading!  Keep reading with your children and they will have the skills and background knowledge they need to be successful.

  16. By Weekend Cowgirl on September 05, 2010

    I always let my babies and grandbabies eat and play with the books. We read and re-read stories many times over and they love it every single time. Those who try to make too many reading rules will find a child at 16 who does not like to read. I used to take my kids into a dark closet and we used flashlights to read. It was one of their favorite things to do!! They were in K and 1st grade and thought this was major fun…

  17. By dandy on September 05, 2010

    Ha, love this.  I can picture all of the scenarios perfectly.





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