I have loved books for as long as I can remember. My mom was the best to always take me to the library and she kept me fully stocked in the books I wanted to read. I remember being so very excited to get my very own library card, even though it had to reside in the file at the library until I was older (after graduating high school, maybe? It's a little fuzzy now).
Because of my own love affair with books, I desperately hoped my girls would love reading and books, and I did everything I could to encourage that love. I read aloud to them when they were too little to understand the words--mostly magazine articles, but also chunks of To Kill a Mockingbird. How's that for culture?
I put out books for the girls starting almost immediately, when they were far too young to know what to do with them. I wanted them to see books lying around, to know what they were, and to hear the words and see the pictures they contained. Naturally, we started with thick and chunky board books, soft fabric or plastic books, and a couple of these indestructible books, which A & M really loved around 18 months or so.
When the girls were just a few months old, I started read an actual "bedtime story" each night. Even if they squawked and fussed through it, this short little routine was one of the last things I did before putting them in bed for the night. At some point, I began reading a short little Baby Einstein book (Lullabies & Sweet Dreams), which had a nice little rhyming cadence...that I can still recite most of, for the record. This book remained in our bedtime rotation, even once we added other books in, for at least two years. I still try to pull it out every once in while, even though I am usually vetoed now.
I rejoiced when the girls finally reached a point where they would sit (relatively) still in my lap for a couple of stories. I don't remember exactly how old they were at that point, but I remember thinking it was a pretty young age for them to be actually "listening". (I am guessing a little more than a year or so?) I was so excited to finally be able to get through a small stack of books at bedtime. Though my mind was numbed at times by the basic, repetitive wording in most of the simple board books, I was glad to see my girls' interest growing.
We stuck with the simple books through about age 2 1/2, employing only a few more wordy titles here and there. As soon as I felt it made sense, though, I started incorporating more and more books with actual pages, more text, and (gasp!) occasionally an actual plot. I was relieved to be free from board book prison. And to my surprise, as the length of the books we read increased, so did the girls' patience for the stories. They became good little listeners, only rarely interrupting and always sitting still where they could see the pictures.
After age two, I began seeking out all manner of books that I enjoyed reading to the girls. I hunted down childhood favorites, flipped through tons of books at the library, and made note of books I saw recommended online. Some became new favorites of mine, while others struck the girls' fancy. We had a few standbys in common, but often our favorites do not overlap. (I may or may not have placed the ones I loathed reading aloud at the bottom of the pile occasionally.)
I love, love, love getting to explore new titles with my girls, and watching their comprehension grow by leaps and bounds. Though they haven't shown any real interest in learning to read themselves yet, I feel sure that we have built a solid foundation that will hopefully help them become lifelong readers.
Recently, I have branched out in their bedtime stories once again, trying out the idea of chapter books. Mackenzie is still enamored with the The Jesus Storybook Bible, which she requests every single night. The stories are not very long, but do have a sense of continuity from one story to the next, so I figured they might be ready for some of the more simple chapter books we could read a little from each night. After watching the movie "Ramona & Beezus", which the girls loved, I picked up the book at the library. I remember reading and re-reading Beverly Clearly when I was young, so I was excited to share her books with them. A & M were so excited to see Ramona in book form, and to hear some of the same stories they'd seen in the movie, plus new ones.
I probably overestimated their attention span a little, as the chapters turned out to be a little longer than is ideal at this point. Still, they did listen to a full chapter on several occasions and we made it through a good chunk of the book. A few weeks ago, I ordered The Children of Noisy Village, and its chapters a bit shorter. The girls have liked it the nights we have read it, and I like the quaint, simple story lines.
As a new facet to our bedtime story routine, the girls now request to 'read' on their own for awhile after I tuck them into bed. Mackenzie gets her Jesus Storybook and Addison usually requests her large Princess book, and they wind down by flipping through the pages of their familiar favorites. I love that they have developed this habit, and I hope it's a sign of good things to come on the book front.
While we may not be ready for a Harry Potter read-a-long for quite some time, I recognize how far we have come with books in four years. I am thankful for the love of literature I see growing in my girls, and I will continue to do everything I can to encourage it.
One day, girls, we will get to Harry Potter, and your minds will be BLOWN.