Reading stories to my four-year-old daughter right before she goes to sleep is a simple joy, a time when we’re snuggled together side by side, giggling at a baby with a mustache or a duck-chef possibly falling into a pot of soup.
It’s also the final mark of my daily checklist of parental duties, the one last barrier that keeps me from getting back to my work, whether that’s work-work or the work of finishing the rest of The Handmaid’s Tale with my wine. I’m always eager to get this book show on the road.
The new How To Raise a Reader guide from the New York Times (which is gorgeous and really worth bookmarking) highlights the importance of reading to toddlers throughout the day, not just at bedtime. It makes sense — reading can calm and centre kids (and their mums and dads) at any hour.
Journalists Pamela Paul and Maria Russo write, “Offering to read books with toddlers is one of the best ways — some days, it can seem like the only way — to get them to slow down and focus. Sit close, and enjoy these moments of connection while it’s still light outside.”
It’s an activity that deserves patience and openness from parents, which we don’t always have when it’s already 12 minutes past bedtime and mama needs her Netflix. Whenever I read with my daughter, she interrupts me at just about every sentence, asking me what the llama ate for breakfast that morning, or where he puts his backpack at school, or reminding me that she, too, has a green backpack that she brought to grandma’s house — oh, and grandma once let her pick some really big tomatoes from her garden.
I try not to stop her — I love her curious brain — but can’t help but think, man, we should have started this much, much earlier.