If You want to Raise a Reader, be a Reader.

We are back in Canada and before I even filled up our fridge I checked out my favourite bookstore in Ottawa for a nice cup of latte, good conversations and great used books. Taking a break from studying, researching and course material, I am happy to read just for pleasure for some time before the new semester starts in September. 

Always with me these days: my son. He is not at daycare anymore (we have both taken the summer off to travel to Europe) and awaits patiently the start of Kindergarten in September since they have a marble machine. I still cannot believe he will be four years-old in October. I have to say that he is into books almost as much as I am by now. Forcing anyone to love books (or anything else) is never a good thing but for him, being around books and me reading all day long  makes it seem natural for him. My favourite time of the day is indeed when he curls up next to me on the couch in the evening and I read to him. We have this special physical closeness that is fantastic. Today, we spent some time at the bookstore too because it rained all day long. Since I love books and reading so much, raising a reader is even more fun.  believe in the importance of reading at any age since it is helpful for the development of the child. I actually read books to him aloud while I nursed him and whenever he had colics it calmed him down. He listened to Jung, Nietzsche, Hemingway, Didion, Philip Roth, David Sedaris and many more. He did not mind. To build a somewhat positive association to books at a very young age worked really well for us. Who knows if it will last for a lifetime but for now, it is great and I initially introduced him to books that I loved as a kid. Now, since he is older, I respect his preference in books. 

I believe starting children  to enjoy books cannot begin early enough. It does not even matter what I read to him when he was very young. But, this way I was able to read my books by reading them out loud without any other distractions. No TV on, no radio etc. since the language has to be directed to child personally. An audiobook never worked and the content never mattered in the beginning. He just loved when I made weird sounds while I read and this even started him “talking” by making noise responses so he communicated with me already at this early age of five weeks. All he wanted was the sound of my voice so I killed two birds with one stone.

I then switched to children’s books once in a while and I don’t even know how many times we read The Hungry Caterpillar and different stories of Maisy Mouse. He and I know the entire stories by heart. I, on the other hand, am crazy about how books smell and how the pages feel so I am using all my senses while reading. Is there a perfume that smells like books? My son is not into smelling books at all. Yet. I guess I am a deeply troubled person. 

My son is a toddler now and my mom hates that term. His interests shifted from hungry caterpillars to volcanos, ghosts, skeletons, the human body and a plethora of “why-questions” on a daily basis like: “Why do we have bones?” I feel that he is at a very important emotional, intellectual and social point in his development right now. He wants to know vocabulary, numbers, the alphabet, colours, shapes and waaaay too many questions on how the world works. We spent a lot of time together and I know him by heart. I sense when he gets tired so our nightly bedtime routine always involves reading. To get him to calm down and relax before bed I create this comfortable atmosphere. We usually eat supper and then curl up on the couch and he chooses what he wants me to read to him. Of course, sometimes he can watch his favourite show and I just read my own book next to him but it is important to create a peaceful, relaxing and soothing atmosphere. This way I can connect to him even though I don’t read to him. 

It is okay that he interrupts while I read. Reading especially to a toddler does not mean to take a book, read it, leave the room and say goodnight. My son has comments and queries. He wants to know things and needs to be engaged and ask what is in the pictures or what he does not understand in the text which in the end expands his view on things. I can also achieve that by choosing diverse books; books that depict children with different skin colours or ethnicities for example. We are living in a diverse world, so exposing him to it at an early stage is important I reckon. I avoid to give my son an e-reader. I know this is probably the future but to hold a physical copy of a book (and to smell it) is so much nicer. Since books are everywhere in our house, this is not a problem. My son’s books are in places in the bookshelf where they are accessibly to him so he can easily pick them up at any time. Most interesting for my son now is whenever a story has bits of adventure, fun and playfulness in it. 

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