Monday, March 31, 2008

Learn Me a Book

One of the things everyone constantly tells you to do once you’re a parent is read to your kids.

I can’t say I have a problem with that, as I’m a big reader myself. And Kara is also no slouch in that department.

But for the last several months I’ve felt somewhat bombarded by the constant signage. Every time I’m anywhere kids might be, like my day care the pediatrician’s office, there is some kind of sign on the wall saying that I should be reading to my kid.

So, yeah, okay.

You know what I’d really prefer, though? I need some more concrete instructions than “Read to your child.”

Like, say, “Try reading X type of book at this stage. And avoid books that are easily masticated.”

I love spending time with Mihret, and I love reading to her, I do, but frankly, she’s 14 months old. For the last few months, she was mostly into chewing, which means that I’ve spent more time preventing her from eating books than I have reading to her.

I think this is actually something of a plot on the part of bookmakers. Most books for little ones are made of a heavy cardboard, which is great, except kids Mihret’s age have teeth that can quickly tear through anything and everything from the realm of paper. And yet, these books say that they’re good for any child over 6 months.

Personally, I’m thinking pretty much any book that you’re going to offer a kid between the ages of 0-24 months needs to be made of either cloth or some sort of heavily, not-easily-destructible plastic.


When we first brought Mihret home, we decided that we would try reading to her every night at bedtime. This worked out pretty well for a month or two.

And then, suddenly, Mihret was having problems going to sleep.

It took us a couple of nights to work out that Mihret’s social-butterfly-ness was keeping her up at night. Bottle time, which usually lasts for five to ten minutes, was a good way to relax her and get her into sleep mode, but having another person in the room seemed to indicate to her that it was still time to party.

So with a little experimenting, we came to realize that the best way to get Mihret to sleep was to kill the lights, have prayer time, and let Mihret drift off to sleep while getting a bottle. This works, oh, 90% of the time, which is good odds when it comes to small children.

Kara and I were bothered, however, by the fact that we couldn’t really read to Mihret any more. As she became more active, she was a lot more interested in crawling around on the floor and practicing her dexterity with her toys.

(I suppose you could replace “practicing her dexterity” with “playing,” but if you’ve ever seen my daughter, you’d know that she’s got a very intense, “What is this and what does it DO?” look about her, when she’s playing. It’s a lot more like watching someone work out nuclear fusion than it is watching someone play.)

Kara and I persisted. Every once in a while, one of us would grab a book, stick Mihret in our lap, and try to read to her.

Sometimes she was cool with it. She would sit through three or four pages, listening and sucking her finger. Sometimes she would even help us turn the page.

And other times… she would just keep on flipping pages until she got to the end of the book, and then she’d try to get down.

There was also the issue of her room. When we arranged her bookshelves a lot of the books for slightly older kids ended up in easy reach. She’d pull them down, we’d try to read them to her, and usually by the end of the first page, Mihret would start squirming out of our grip.

In the last couple of weeks, we finally managed to work out how to make the whole “book” thing work for Mihret. Half of the credit goes to Kara, and half to me.

Mihret had gotten several books for Easter, and Kara and I discovered that Mihret was especially drawn to one with a bunch of fuzzy animals in it. She can touch it, and stroke it, and pat it, and point at it and say “Dat?” and we’ll say “Sheep,” or “Duck.” She thinks this book is swell.

So Kara sat down one evening, and she pulled all the toys that Mihret doesn’t really play with any more out of the container we’ve got sitting on the living room floor, and she replaced ‘em with books.

And then Mihret suddenly got more interested in her books. She pulled them out, and piled them on the floor, and started bringing them to Mommy and Daddy. Of course, when we would try to read them to her, the odds were about 25% that we’ll make it past the first page or two…

But we were getting somewhere.

And then there was upstairs, where Mihret kept grabbing books that could be destroyed FAR too easily, and pulling them off her shelf. Until this last weekend, when I said to Kara, “You know, why don’t we put all the books she can actually USE in reach?”

Kara put it into action – I took Mihret downstairs while Kara reshuffled all the necessary volumes. And so far it’s worked great. Mihret grabs a book, and we read a few pages to her. Then she gets up and gets another book.

The end result is a big pile of half-read books.


She’s getting it. The last weekend, we had a photo session with her, where we put her on the floor, alone, with a book. And by gum, she flipped it open and started looking at the pages like she was a tiny little reader.

Then she picked up the book and stuck it in her mouth.

Baby steps.

No comments: