Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bibliophile Baby (or 1,000 books by age 1)

I love reading. It is an integral aspect of my life as an elementary school teacher. Books of all shapes and sizes. Now, I want to structure reading into my daughter's life as well. I hope it never becomes a chore for her to read. Rather, I want my free time to be interrupted with requests to come read to her, with her, or listen to her read to me. Naturally, I've introduced reading as a joyful experience to my daughter from the start.

When we first came home from the hospital I would read aloud to her whatever I was reading, which happened to be parenting books. Aware that the content of what I read doesn't have meaning to her yet, I was simply trying to calm and comfort her with the sound of my voice reading fluently and with inflection. However, my attention soon turned to the access to children's books available in the school's library where I work. I pass through there dozens of times per day to get to the teacher work room, the cafeteria, the office. It serves as a shortcut across campus and offers the benefit of walking under a skylight that floods the aisles between bookshelves with natural sunlight. Instinctively, I pass through as part of my daily routine. But I hadn't realized the opportunity for a teacher to take home books until this past week. So I stopped by after school to find a few stories to read to Harper at bedtime.

With Dr. Seuss' birthday around the corner, it seemed obvious to check out one or two of his tongue twisters. I brought home Oh, the Thinks You Can Think and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are. They both seemed to resemble the attitudes I have projected on my offspring. That evening, after her evening feed and diaper change, I laid out a blanket on the floor and cuddled up on it with my six-week old bundle of joy, and we read. She didn't offer her critiques of the books afterward . . . even though I asked her what she thought. But it fulfilled the "activity" requirement in our eat-activity-sleep routine, and I almost made it out of the nursery without turning a simple activity into a personal challenge.

I should have run out instead of walk. That extra time probably gave my brain the pause that usually turns ordinary into extraordinary. But the it happened, and the thought occured to me. What if I brought home just three books each day and read them to Harper. That would end up being somewhere near 1,000 books read to her by the time she turns one year old. And so a challenge materialized.

The next day was a Friday before a three-day weekend, and I stocked up--enough books to read three each day of the extended weekend. Not only had I decided to read to my daughter each day of her young life, I decided to start a journal to record the title of each book that I read to her to be given to her as something of a sentimental treasure down the road in her future.

I do not have empiracal, scientific proof to support that my 1,000 book initiative will rear a bibliophile like her dad, but the time that we've spent together on the floor or in my lap already has been worth the time. We've read Where the Wild Things Are, How Does a Dinosaur Say 'I Love You'?, The Listening Walk and more. I've actually read her all of the books that I checked out for our long weekend, and we still have a day and a half left. While my arbitrary goal is to create a list of books for my daughter to use as a boost to her confidence as she becomes an independent reader herself, the experience of laying down on a nursery floor to read my childhood favorites to my firstborn only to turn my head to see her gazing up at her bookworm of a dad is satisfaction enough for me.

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