I’ve already told you that I have very few memories of being read to as a child (and all extremely unsatisfying events), even though I remember other things that are completely unimportant details of my early childhood. A couple of years ago I had a conversation with my cousin Todd. (He’s 3 years older, so he remembers more about our shared childhood memories.) He was shocked and dismayed I remembered that once he told me that if my pillow fell off the bed in the middle of the night I should be very careful when I reached down to get it, because there was a monster under the bed and it might grab me. I don’t remember Todd reading to me either.
When I was a preschool teacher I attended a seminar by Bev Bos, who said something very interesting. In order for children to be readers when they grow up they need to see their parents reading for pleasure. Not for work, not briefs or technical journals, but books, and because they liked it. When she said that, I gasped out loud, and it all clicked for me. The fact that my mom read to me when I was little was important, but it was only a part of the puzzle – the edge pieces. I needed those pieces to become a reader, but once they were all put together I didn’t need to pay much attention to them anymore. The body of the puzzle is my memories of my parents reading to themselves.
And I have vivid memories of that. I remember them flying away to some secret place on the wings of the printed page and simply disappearing there. It was such a silent thing, that reading in their heads. It fascinated me and annoyed me at the same time, since I had no access to the story that had obviously spirited them to some alternate place and time.
When an adult reads to a child they are instilling a love of literature, especially if they love reading to a child, and show obvious pleasure in the act of reading out-loud. But it’s only half the puzzle. We do all kinds of things for our children like tucking them in and helping them wash their hair and put on their clothes, and brushing their teeth. Our kids see us doing all those same kinds of things on our own, and the child figures out that eventually they’ll do those things on their own, too. So if you don’t let them see you reading, then reading becomes something that is done for or to you, not something that you will do for yourself one day. Reading seems temporary and transient, not something that’s a life long habit. It’s more like a blankie or a teddy bear, something you give up as you enter the more independent stages of your life.
But when your child sees you read for pleasure they see that reading is like brushing your teeth, or picking out your own clothes and putting them on all by yourself- it’s something you do every day.
This just my observation of why it’s important for your child to see you read. It’s logical and thought out, but I have no proof. I don’t know if science has proof, either. I just know that science tells us children need to be read to and that they need to see us read for pleasure to become bibliophiles. And I know which memory from my childhood led me towards the life of the book lover.
By the way, when I was in my 20’s I read all of the Travis McGee books. They were much, much more satisfying than when I was four, and way more interesting. Some of them, like the “Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper” made me cry, and I still think about that book and those characters. Some of them became entangled and merged into one really long book, like “Nightmare in Pink” and “The Long Lavender Look” and some of them I don’t remember at all, but I know I read them. I bought them in used bookstores and borrowed my dad’s long ago tattered copies. My sister read them, too. And we talked about them, my dad and my sister and my mom, and my little brother, too. We talk about books all the time, they are woven through and all around and inside and outside and the in between of our family life.
Which brings me to my last thought. How do we, in this very busy life, show our children the active life of the Bibliophile?
-posted by Miss Allison, who will tell you her thoughts about this on Sunday!