…is a refrain oft heard around our house these days. When Zuzu was a baby I was a tad obsessed over the need to establish a reading routine so that books would be an important part of her little world. When she was barely days old I would set her in the swing and swiftly read 3 night-time themed books to her each evening; dutifully showing her the pictures. She didn’t yawn in response, or kick and giggle, or really show any apparent response. Then as the days progressed I switched to a routine of reading chapter children books to her while she nursed. I liked the Norman Rockwellish image of reading to her about Peter Rabbit or Paddington bear. Again- really not much of a response that was obvious- until she reached the point where she would grab the book from my hands and attempt to nurse it rather than me. This grew frustrating and as she hit that 5-6 month mark where I could no longer read, talk on the phone or watch TV while nursing because she became more engaged in it than the task at hand I gave up actively establishing a reading routine at bedtime. We did still have tons of board books around though and the first book she memorized was Sandra Boynton’s Moo, Baa, La, La, La which had lovingly been provided as part of a welcome package of favorite baby toys by Celina and Lisa’s families from St. Louis. At an early age that could still be recorded in months, rather than years when you recited, “The cow says….” she would happily cluck off the animal sound portions till she could “read” the entire book her ownself. This expanded to Barnyard Dance, and on and so-forth as she slowly established her favorite selection of little board book stories. Between the second and third year when her daycare became more of a preschool structure she began her role as teacher, imitating Miss Chrystal at school and lining either us or her animals and babydolls up for her reading to us as the teacher. The first book she did it with was a darling book that we had ordered from the Scholastic Books program at school that had obviously been read at group time the day it came in. That night when I tried to read it to her she was insistent on taking it from me and assuming the teacher role yet again as she sad there jammy-clad instructing us on the book she named “Foxes” for the little fox family on the cover.
We eventually did establish a bedtime routine of 3 books while nursing and then off to sleep. And after the Quail joined us we continued in a less structured fashion of storytime as she would bring books over to where we sat with her baby sister and read them to her. But something changed in the last month or so. She began responding to the request that she “read” a book with an upset tone and even a few tears because she has realized she doesn’t know how. No longer willing to run through the motions we have began to attempt to instruct her in a somewhat bumbling effort. We are slowly returning to a nighttime routine of books before bed and books together upon awakening.
So in addition to being surrounded by books, (yes I still obsessively by them from thrift stores, Ross stores and anywhere I see them for less than a $5 bill.); we are now surrounded by letters. We use Starfall.com, the Leapfrog refrigerator letter and now word building products and her favorite shows to watch include the likes of Super Why, Wordgirl and Word World. I remember one day at the grocery store months ago when she suddenly gazed up at the Pharmacy sign and declared with delight, “Momma there’s an A!” as the letters of the alphabet came slowly into focus for her. I also remember nights on end of asking her the colors of the toys in her bath and the slow switch from sly, grinning guesses to accurate naming of the dolphin and ducky family hues.
And it appears we are entering a whole new realm of independence as entire words begin to come into focus for her in the same fashion. Each night as we put dinner together she uses her alphabet magnets and asks Lovey to help her spell words. She has mastered the art of sounding out C-A-T and tells us she has no desire to spell DOG. But would like to know how to spell, happy, hiccup, rocket, Annie, June, playground and spider. So we meet her requests unquestioningly and come up with pitiful English language lessons of the likes of, ” Well happy is one of those special words that has 2 consonants in it”. We can only hope she doesn’t repeat our haphazard lessons as insistently to her teachers as she sometimes is with us as she reminds us to use our happy manners because they will make us happy.
I think maybe she makes us happy.