Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's Never Too Early

Sean and his wife have a new baby boy. All my best wishes and congratulations.

Sean also hasn’t slept in a week. And won’t sleep a full night for quite some time, most likely. What you’re supposed to say to a friend at this time is, “Talk about not sleeping. Wait until he’s a teenager and going out for the evening with friends and his brand-new driver’s license.” But no—I have another soapbox to mount.

Reading to children.

You could even start now, Sean. He’ll love to lie against your chest and listen to the sound of your voice.

Read, read, and read, as he grows older.

For everybody out there who looks at our blog—both of you, or more we hope—read to children. If you have young children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, neighbor children, read to them. Some libraries are looking for volunteers to read to children. Go. Do.

Give books for presents. Give books for birthdays, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, give books to children on your birthday. Monday is coming up. Monday is a great day to give books. The Queen’s birthday will be celebrated in Western Australia on September 25. That’s a great occasion to give books, and it’s less than four weeks away, so you’d better get cracking.

Some years ago when one of my children was in eighth grade, he was encouraged to buy his own books at our local bookstore. I got a call from the manager saying the kid wanted to buy an adventure book, but the manager wasn’t sure about selling it to him because it had “racy” elements. Or maybe what she might have called s_x. Oh, please, it was mostly a quest book with a little mild sex, an Eric von Lustbader, as I remember. I said let him buy it. Reading is always better than not reading.

He’s grown up now, by the way, a perfectly civilized and admirable fellow.

Reading takes you into another mind in a way nothing else will. It’s the basis of learning. It’s also [gasp!] fun.

I think I’ll send Sean a copy of Pat the Baby.

Barbara D'Amato

39 comments:

Stacey said...

I'm not advocating lying kids, but I used to lie to my librarian when I was 12 and wanted to borrow books from the grown-ups section. I used to tell her that they were for my mum.

I totally agree with you Barbara - does it really matter what kids are reading, as long as they are reading?

It really makes me sad that many kids look up to celebrities who proudly flaunt the fact that they have never read a book in their lives. Clearly there's something wrong there!

ab said...

Letting the kid free in a bookstore allowed to choose for himself was a brilliant idea! More and more kids, used to video games and even more TV than before (now with braindamaging reality shows) think that books are boring things for nerds. So we must be grateful to the author of Harry P and others who are able to make nine-year-olds plow through 500 pages volumes. Yes, reading to small kids is fun and important and makes them think books are a treat, not a duty.

Sara P, inspired by you, I just finished Dorothy Uhnak's The Investigation. It was fascinating new acquaintance and a very well written book indeed - but in a completely male tradition with a completely unbelievable female protagonist (Kitty Keeler), the Mysterious Beauty. Also, the notion of a police investigator only looking at a case twice because he is in love, disturbs me. But Uhnak's intimate knowledge of police work, the realism and grittyness and politics of the novel, was very interesting, corruption being the name of the game. Thanks for the tip!

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

My Mother and father encouraged me to read whatever I wanted to read. When I started to read my Mother's books we started talking about them. It was fun having her explain to a grade school principal that it was ok for me to read Deliverance...

Now she borrows my books.

Kids need to read, everything and anything.

ab said...

Free access to books for a kid is heaven. I spent many summers in my childhood at a farm and at my grandmother's house, and in the living rooms there were bookcases. And in the bookcases books like Kristin Lavransdatter and Anna Karenina.... I don't know why, because nobody else read (my mother at home did, though) and they made fun of me. So I devoured Anna Karenina at nine or ten. It was just heaven!

Sean Chercover said...

The sprout is only a couple of weeks old, and so far I've mostly been dancing around the living room with him in my arms, singing Rat Pack tunes. He seems to like that (which, if you'd ever heard me sing, would give you pause).

But now I will add reading to the entertainment menu. He'll probably enjoy the rhythms of reading, as he does with music.

Thanks, Barb. And you are so right about the importance of early reading.

I'm grateful that my parents read to me from as early as I can remember, taught me the joy of reading for myself at a very young age, and encouraged me to read whatever the hell I wanted, instead of restricting me to "age appropriate" pablum.

Keith said...

Soon you'll be able to recite from memory, in the proper order:

Brown bear, red bird, yellow duck, blue horse, green frog, purple cat, white dog, black sheep, goldfish, teacher, children.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading to my nephews since they were born. I bring them a book every time I see them. (Mostly inexpensive picture books.) They are 2 and 4 and love the library more than any place in the world. The first thing my 2 year old nephew does when he sees me is bring me a book to read to him. It is the most wonderful think in the world to see.

Jonathan E. Quist said...

Sigh...

You all have brought back so many memories.

When I was about 10, my brother took me to a large library in a neighboring town, where I discovered a couple of Erle Stanley Gardner novels on a book sale table. I did not understand why my parents objected to my purchase of "The Reluctant Model" and "The Case of the Bigamous Spouse"; to their credit, they did not burn the books - they simply held them until I was older. (Within a year I found them in the bookcase in my parents' room, and read them anyway.)

My first-born's first book was a picture-book of barnyard animals, and part of the bedtime ritual was "reading" through it, saying "the cow says moo", etc. Afterwards, we would discuss the book... Leona was preverbal, so the conversations consisted of her uttering animal sounds, and me repeating them back to her. I have never heard "moo" uttered with such sincerity. She was speaking by 11 months. (Ironically, for a crime writer's blog, her first word was "Koko", the name of our cat, who was her best buddy at the time. But he was relation to Lillian Jackson Braun's Siamese of the same name.)

There is nothing quite so rewarding as reading Suess in character, and seeing little eyes widen in response. And, when they are able to talk, making it interactive. "I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them..." <giggle> "Sam I am!"

When interest in "The Lord of the Rings" sparked with the release of the first film, we told Leona we could see it on the first day if she first read the book. She did. She was 10. She polished off the rest of the trilogy back to back, and Faith had taken it upon herself to read them before the second film was released, when she was 9.

Now, reading to your child at an early age will have some negative impact by the time he's in middle school. You'll find that you won't be able to motivate him to do homework by threatening to take away the Nintendo. You'll have to talk to teachers at school, and explain why you need the reading list revised (because he stopped reading "Berenstain Bears" years ago). And, you may find yourself having to advocate for gifted education in your school. But if you can survive the first couple of months, those things are a cakewalk.

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