When I was maybe 4 or 5 years old, my aunt used to put a book in front of me and make me read it out loud. I wouldn’t read the words, but I would make up stories using the pictures as a guide. She would then yell at me and accuse me of not being able to read. When I was around 6 years old, my mom would compare me to my cousin who was already reading chapter books and I would still borrow “simpler” books with pictures from our library. My family didn’t really foster a love for books, instead, they emphasized reading as a skill that you needed to be good at (otherwise, you would be an embarrassment—hello Chinese-Filipino upbringing!). So, for the first few years of my life, books just made me feel bad about myself. It took me a few years to discover how magical books were.
I don’t want that for Squish. I would love it if he excelled at reading (just like his Papa who could read aloud at 2 years old!). But what I really want is for him to love books, or, more importantly, I want him to love stories. I want him to be excited for the friends (or foes) he’ll meet in a new book, for the adventure that could unfold on each page, and to discover words that perfectly capture feelings that he didn’t know how to articulate.
It’s a bias I have, I know. And if it turns out that reading and books isn’t something that really floats Squish’s boat, then I’ll have to make peace with that. But for now, while I have the privilege to curate his activities, I will try my best to steer him towards books.
So far, it seems to be going well! I try to read to him at least once a day. Now that he’s more active, I usually read to him while he’s standing in his playpen. I try to read to him after he wakes up from a nap. His patience meter is at its fullest then! He likes books that aren’t too long, have colorful pictures, and are rhythmic or have lots of words that I can act out. His favorite books are:
- The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna
- The Chu series (Chu’s Day, Chu’s First Day of School, and Chu’s day at the Beach) by Neil Gaiman and Adam Rex
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
- Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak
- Knuffle Bunny by Moe Willems
We have a few books that we’re excited for Squish to read that are still too advanced for him right now. Momma and Papa’s favorites are: The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick, and of course, the Harry Potter series (specifically the Philosopher’s Stone, the Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban) by J.K. Rowling.
These past few weeks, I noticed that Squishy is developing an interest in books (at least more than his interest in eating it, hehe). Whenever I leave a board book with him in his playpen, he’ll open it up and try to turn the pages. Sometimes, I’ll hold up a book in front of him and he’ll try to feel the pictures. And he sometimes shows excitement (by bouncing up and down) when I pull out a familiar book and start reading to him.
Here’s a great article from the New York Times that encourages reading to your kids. I hope we can continue reading together as a family habit. There’s only so much of this world that we can see in this lifetime, and books are such a great way to experience the world (and beyond!).