From the first throws of morning sickness, I have been dreaming about reading books to my children. I just knew that they would be smitten with the sound of my voice and would hang on every word that spewed forth from my mouth. And why wouldn’t they? My voice is angelic. Ha! What little boy wouldn’t want to sit still beside his mother while she read? Neither of mine. Ed and I started reading them Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when they were only a few weeks old, but we quickly figured out that they weren’t getting anything mind-blowing out of it at the time and that since we were reading the book basically to each other since the munchkins were sleeping through their 2:00 a.m. feedings, we would need to shelve the books until they were older. We gave them the board books when they became mobile, but the board books, when out of our hands and into theirs, became chew toys. We shipped them off to Montessori school as soon as we were able and they were introduced to circle time for stories. So finally, at around 18 months, they would listen to the books that had ONE sentence on each page. But only at school. I tried and tried to get them to listen to a book and they just weren’t interested. They would much rather wrestle. I’m sure a girl would have sat in my lap to listen to me read for hours. Ok, fine. She would have sat in Ed’s lap to hang on his every word while giving me the stink eye. But she still would have a literary background, a love for the written word.
When the boys were around 2 years old, they discovered Thomas the Train. Ed had so much fun picking out the trains and different stations for them. They would build the tracks and run the trains around the tracks and chew on the trains for hours. Or at least long enough for me to cook dinner. After the love affair with the Thomas trains started, we were finally able to start reading the Thomas the Train books with one simple sentence on each page. Books that took more than five minutes to read still were not tolerated.
They kept getting older, as children often do, and the length of the books did get longer, but pictures were absolutely necessary. Every single page was interrupted with “Mommy, what is that dog doing? He’s so silly!” Or some other equivalent remark.
They learned to read when they were 4 years old. My children are geniuses. I’ll give you a moment to be awe-struck. We would read a book or seven before bed and I would turn off their light and tuck them in to bed. The moment I would step foot in the hall, one of them would be up to turn on the light in their little hallway (my house is old and full of character, it’s a three-foot long hallway they were illuminating) and each boy would get a book and read in their bed until 10:30 or 11:00 every night. Yes, they were monsters when we woke them up for school the next morning. This went on for about a year and a half. I finally figured out that if I turned off the main hall light, they were too scared of the dark to get up to turn on the light in their little hall. Yes, I’m mean like that. I wanted the demons to get some sleep. It worked. Sometimes, you have to play on your children’s fears to do what’s best for them. We have repeatedly told them that if they go out in the street before looking, a car will run over them. They remember about half of the time that they are supposed to look for cars. We remind them the other half. They never go in the street by themselves because we are insanely overprotective, but the munchkins are still alive so I think that’s working for us so far.
When they started kindergarten, I asked them for the seven millionth time if I could start reading Harry Potter to them. “No Mommy,” they said. “We don’t read chapter books yet.”
Really? How do you know, you little demons? Have you ever read a chapter book? How about now is a good time to start? They wouldn’t have it. All fall long, I read them the same book over and over again. We could easily put away four or five books a night from their collection. They could read all of the books by themselves. And while all reading is good at their age, I find it hard to believe that reading the same book over and over again will significantly affect their vocabularies or reading skills.
The boys have finally given in to my incessant requests to start reading “chapter books” to them. I’ve started with the Harry Potter series because it’s an awesome series and I’ve wanted to read it to them for almost seven years now. I’ve been surprised at how often we have to stop to discuss terms in the book, because, as I’ve said before, my children are geniuses. So far, the boys have learned that there is more than one meaning for the term “mad,” what witches and wizards are, that some people are mean to children for no good reason (Harry’s aunt, uncle, and cousin), that some people are evil to the core (Voldemort), that some people are innately good (the Weasley’s in general, but especially Mr. and Mrs. Weasley) and that not all desserts are sweet (any flavor beans). They will sit mostly still beside me on one of their beds. We have to switch beds every night to keep things fair. Being swaddled in blankets is necessary for good reading, but they’re old enough to wrap the blankets around their bodies now. They’ve also learned that if you move too much or make too much noise, Mom will stop reading for the night. I have learned that if I take off a night from putting the boys to bed, Ed will read at least a chapter and a half. Dangit. I have loved getting to read Harry Potter to the boys and I can’t wait to read more.
I am planning on reading the entire Harry Potter series to the boys and then the Percy Jackson series. I know Rick Riordan has several other series that I’m looking forward to reading to them.
What are some other children’s books you’ve read and loved? I need more ideas!