Every time I walk into my friend Jen’s house, her 15-month-old grins at me, showing off all 4 of his teeth. He then toddles into his nursery, expecting me to follow. I lift him up to the bookshelves on his wall, and he points to the board book he wants to “read” with me.
We sit on the floor together. While he manhandles the pages, his sparkling teeth a contrast to his peach fuzz head, I do my best to try to glimpse a page long enough to catch a word or two to read to him. He points at images. I give him words. Occasionally, he sits on the book or falls over it.
He tires of that book, and walks it over to the bookshelves. I pick him up again, put away his book, and grab another. We usually go through about 5 books before I’m released to greet his parents.
He knows I’m his book buddy. We’ve been book buddies since he was born.
My own twin daughters, now aged 10, are voracious bookworms. A few months ago, we headed down to South Congress Avenue in Austin to people watch and catch the spontaneous art that pops up there. We ended up spending more time at the bookstore than anywhere else.
Do you want your kid to love reading as much as these kids do?
The trick is simple. Make books part of your everyday interactions with your child.
Starting in infancy, find books that your baby can chew on, scratch at, or even tear. I love to give very little kids colorful catalogs to page through. They’d end up in the recycling anyway. As long as you monitor little ones to prevent (much) consumption of paper, catalogs provide a great opportunity for them to learn the texture and joy of paper.
Electronic books and reading apps for kids abound. One of my twins loves her Kindle. The other much prefers the feel and smell of paper. The more opportunities we give our kids to experience the written word, the better. For very young children, the tactile experience of board books, fabric books, and paper can draw them in a way that screens don’t.
It’s not enough to give them access to age appropriate books. There is nothing an infant or toddler values more than a parent’s attention. Give book time with your child your full attention. For the rest of his life, he’ll associate books with the feeling of safety and magic he gets from spending time with you. Be your child’s book buddy.
I’d encourage you to get your child her own library card, and soon. Most libraries have stuffed toys and board books for even the youngest child. A good public library will keep you from going broke when you have big readers in the house! I speak from experience.
Sadia is a single mom raising twin daughters. She blogs at How Do You Do It?, where she and other parents of twins and more tell it like it is.