My daughter was a baby when I first read a book to her. She was probably unable to even focus her eyes on the pictures, but she seemed to enjoy it anyway. She may not have understood my words, but I’m sure she felt that something special was being communicated by the rhythm of my voice and the attention I was giving to this small square object. It was quality time.
So began our journey together as book lovers. Apart from one small blip on her third birthday, when she opened her books first and screamed, “All books! Where are my toys?!” (sacrilege), she has always loved to read and to be read to.
I also grew up with my head frequently stuck in a book. Parenting has taught me that book lovers who raise bookworms get to enjoy some extra special experiences.
Seeing your children love the books you loved
I couldn’t wait to share some books with my daughter. At times, I’ve caught myself wishing she was older just so I could introduce her to new fictional characters I know she’d adore.
I know parents who’ve rhapsodized about their children discovering the delights of certain Enid Blyton books, and I’ve never known a child who doesn’t love “The Faraway Tree” stories – Moonface, Silky the Fairy, pop cakes, toffee shocks, google buns… they’re such incredible, sensation filled adventure stories. It’s great to see little ones experience the excitement of them for the first time.
I was over eager to introduce my daughter to the Harry Potter books. She read the first one too early and was bored. But a year or two later she tried again, and now she’s read and loves the whole series.
I know it’ll be at least another couple of years before I can hand her copies of my old Phillip Pullmans, (Must. Have. Patience), but it’s great to know that she has so many awe inspiring stories ahead of her that she will love.
Rereading classics you haven’t read since you were a child
This may seem very similar to the last point, but enjoying seeing your child read is quite a different experience from actually rereading childhood favorites again yourself.
Reading Enid Blyton’s Amelia Jane stories to my daughter brought back buried memories of hearing it read aloud by my teacher in school. I’d completely forgotten how much I’d loved the one where she caused havoc with plasticine!
Revisiting books from childhood can bring back all sorts of memories and feelings you’d forgotten about. There’s a unique ‘scrumptious food and passwords in a shed’ feeling to Blyton’s Secret Seven books that nothing else quite evokes.
More recently, I’ve reread Penny Farmer’s “Charlotte Sometimes” and Catherine Storr’s “Marianne Dreams” – both books that made a big impression on me as a child and that I enjoyed rediscovering as an adult. A great story is just that, never mind it’s target audience.
Of course, some books do become dated and may have old fashioned ideas in them. But that’s a great opportunity for a chat with your child about the way society progresses.
Discovering great new books
Loads of great children’s literature has appeared since I was a child. My daughter’s enthusiasm has inspired me to check out some of her favorites (okay, I’ll admit I’ve occasionally read them before she’s managed to get her hands on them!), “The Sleeper and the Spindle”, “Varjak Paw”, and “Girl of Ink and Stars”, to name a few. I’m also about to start the highly recommended Tamora Pierce series “The Song of the Lioness”.
Knowing that you’re helping your child’s education
One thing my daughter has never struggled with at school is spelling. It was the same for me, and while it may not always follow that a keen reader is great speller, it certainly helps. Children absorb things like sentence structure and spelling through reading.
Children may not realize it, but they’re learning about the world when they read. I began to talk to my daughter about suffragettes recently and discovered that she already knew quite a lot on the subject thanks to a book called “Opal Plumstead” by one of her favorite authors, Jacqueline Wilson.
It’s great to watch your child’s reading tastes develop, too. I was amused when my daughter told me recently that one author “tried too hard to be funny.” It may be that the material was a bit young for her, but I took it as a sign of increasing discernment.
Bonding through books
In addition to teaching about the world and language, reading helps us understand other people and emotions. Books can be a great way to talk about issues you think your child might might benefit from understanding, whether it’s how to deal with bullying or just sharing interesting facts. A shared love of books can deepen your relationship with your child.
Some of my happiest times have been spent curled up with a good book – something I especially enjoy at the end of a busy day. Now that I have a reading comrade, that pleasure has been increased by ‘double snuggle time’: bad weather, comfy sofa, duvet, good book, bar of chocolate to share, snuggled up reading together. Nothing better.
Of course, it’s not always wonderful being parent to a bookworm. There are times when they completely ignore you or snap at you because they’re so engrossed. They may take 10 hours getting ready for school in the morning because they’re trying to dress with a book in one hand, or wander around on holiday ignoring their surroundings because they’re too busy reading. But the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
I do wonder if my daughter and I will continue to share a love of the same authors and genres, or if our tastes will diverge as she grows up. Whatever the case, I look forward to finding out.