Raising Two Bookworms...
When our daughter was born, it took my husband and me a few weeks to get used to our new life with her. We talked to her, sang to her. We also wanted to read to her.
All the magazines and books we'd read recommended reading to babies as early as during the pregnancy itself!! So in those terms, we were...(gulp!) LATE! But not too late to begin, we told ourselves.
The BIG question was what to read to a newborn! Since both of us had grown up in India, we were only familiar with books we'd grown up with (primarily the Amar Chitra Katha comics and books by Enid Blyton).
After an online search, we figured out and ordered a few 'recommended' titles -"Are you my Mother?", "A Very Hungry Caterpillar" and some others.
We read to her at bedtime, mealtimes, playtime and whenever we felt like it. In a few months, we began seeing results.
Seated in her high chair at six months of age, our darling baby girl began curiously flipping pages of board books with her tiny fingers! Delighted by her newfound interest, I'd take her to the library every week. We even stocked up our bookshelves with lots of children's books!
At age four, she could read one on her own! Her very first chapter book was one from the Magic Treehouse series!
And that’s how she took off reading…Amelia Bedelia, A to Z Mysteries, Magic School Bus, Arthur, Junie B and many others. The Summer Reading Programs at the library gave an added impetus. We continued to read to her even though she was able to read on her own. We’d take turns reading aloud. “You read the left page, I’ll read the right one,” she’d say.
When she was five, our son was born. Determined to make him into an avid reader as well, we started reading to him when he was only a week old! Thanks to our experience with our daughter, we knew what to read to him! Our daughter read to him too, sharing a special bond with her baby brother.
During his first year, our son was fascinated with board books and books with baby photos. He also loved picture books that we read to him every day. But as he grew, his interest in books tapered off. He loved going to the library, but headed straight to play computer games instead of browsing the bookracks! Even during the Storytime session, he was more keen on walking around the room than in listening to the book being read. On some occasions, he'd even run out of the programme room!
My hubby and I were worried, but continued reading to him. In a few months we realised that we'd been fretting over nothing. Once again, our little guy had begun picking up picture books of his own interest - silly books, wacky books, books about his favourite characters (Curious George, Barney, Spot the Dog, etc.), books about his favourite things to eat (the Golgappu series available in India).
As long as he enjoyed books, we were happy and ensured that he remained connected with books by taking a library membership and keeping a fairly large selection of books at home! With regular exposure to books, he had to remain in touch.
When he turned five, we tried to introduce the exciting Magic Treehouse series to him. But unlike our daughter, our son could not sit through it beyond a chapter. Then BOOM! It struck us that he would take his own sweet time to pick up books and decide what interested him!
Finally, when he was 6, we tried reading a chapter book series new to him. It began like this, "My name is AJ and I hate school..." With its puns and witty jokes, our son was hooked! He wanted more and more. The Weird School Series by Dan Gutman had done it!
And then began a serious devouring of every book from this hilarious series. Though this series was controversial, I didn't care! It had got my son interested in reading and that's what mattered!
It has been two years since then. My son still loves to read the Weird School series, Weird School Daze series, Weirdest School series (Yes, they all exist!). But now he also reads other popular series like The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Geronimo Stilton. And yes, he reads the Magic Treehouse series as well!
Today, my daughter continues to devour books of all kinds at age 14. She, of course, reads on her own and sometimes even critiques my stories!
My son is now reading Rick Riordan's The Lightening Thief!! At 9, he eagerly experiments with various kinds of books. He's still loyal to the Weird School series and yes, he still loves picture books! I guess I shouldn't complain about that. After all, I am a picture book lover too!