At the very young age of not-quite-three, my son, of his own free will, is reading—albeit only four words: go, truck, woof, and zoom—but still. He’s reading.
It’s amazing to watch it all come together for him. For the past year, he’s been reciting his favorite books—all rhythmic delights—aloud as I read. RATTLETRAP CAR by Phyllis Root, RACER DOGS by Bob Kolar, CARS GALORE and BUGS GALORE by Peter Stein, DIG, DIG, DIGGING by Margaret Mayo, BUILDER GOOSE by Boni Ashburn, and of course, DONUT CHEF and HELLO, ROBOTS! By Bob Staake. He memorizes the verses more accurately and rapidly than I do. He’s also a stickler for accuracy; if I accidentally misspeak a word, he’ll stop me so we can re-recite the line—it’s his toddler version of, “Alright, let’s take it from the top.”
There is no shortage of books in our house. We have three wall-size shelves packed so full it’s sometimes hard to select one book without pulling out the whole row along with it. The stack of bedtime stories by Miles’s nightstand towers so high he can’t reach the top book. In his play room, the built-in bookshelves are teeming with board books. Beneath our living room end tables, there are neat stack of picture book favorites. And next to Miles’s potty chair, there is a nice blue box of picture books about trains. I love how alive a house feels when it’s filled with books—all that color, all those beautiful bindings, the smell of pages.
We have a few sacred rules:
Rule #1 – Story time is all the time
Miles curls up in my lap for stories first thing in the morning, before we’ve even brushed our teeth. I’ll drop anything to read to him.
Rule #2 – Books get an all access travel pass
Miles has a box of books in the car (and for heaven’s sake, no backseat DVD player). We bring books on vacation, to doctor’s appointments, on picnics, to the park, and to the beach. When we flew to Florida, one of our carry-ons contained nothing but books—and after lugging that 30-pound bag around for 9 hours of travel time plus a layover, I’ll admit, I regretted packing so many!
Rule #3 – Miles Runs the Show
Sure, I’ll offer new selections and remind him of ones we haven’t read in a while, but ultimately, Miles is in full control of our reading list. I find it interesting how he can recognize most books by the binding alone, and I enjoy hearing him rattle off the titles that made his cut. Some days he’s all about stories that rhyme. Other nights he’ll select longer books. And there are times when he wants a combination of both. We’ve had vehicle-themed days, silly story days, and focus-on-the-illustration days—it’s all good.
Rule #4 - No clocks allowed. We budget our day to allow for a long, luxurious story time. Miles is never limited to one book or even two. During the day, we’ve been known to read fifteen stories in a row. At bedtime, he chooses an average of four or five. Never do we rush through a story. I think it’s beautiful how he’ll linger on a particular page, twisting a lock of his hair, studying the images, and asking questions. I want to linger there too, exactly where he is.
Lately, he has really been turning his attention to printed text. While I read aloud, his tiny fingers will trace line-by-line, as if he’s following along. He’ll stop me, point to a word and ask, “Momma, what’s that one say?” He is always curious.
We read with dramatic flair—different voices for different characters, shouting out the boldface words, speeding up our tempo during the action, and whispering words like pitter-patter. He laughs at funny words like: trumble, flappity, and kablam! And he gets a big kick out of Trixie’s meltdown--Aggle Flabble Klabble--in Mo Willems’s KNUFFLE BUNNY.
My boy is rambunctious and gregarious. He's got skinned knees, muddy rain boots, and a rock collection. But when it comes to reading time, he’s attentive and thoughtful. He takes in every word. On long walks, we recite passages from our favorite books. When we’re playing cars together, we’ll sometimes act out the lyrical scenes from MY TRUCK IS STUCK! by Kevin Lewis. But my favorite thing—and by this I mean, MY FAVORITE THING I’VE EVER EXPERIENCED IN MY WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE—is curling up with Miles in my lap, snuggling close, smelling his hair, watching his tiny fingers point to illustrations that pique his interest, and listening to his sweet voice “reading” along with me as we work our way through a stack of storybooks. There is truly nowhere in the world I’d rather be.