Reading With My Daughter

Charlotte is 20 months old. Tomorrow, in fact, marks 21 months out of the womb.

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She is in a phase right now where she loves reading; or, at least, being read to. She certainly takes active participation, though. She will point at familiar objects and name them, such as “baby” or “doggy.”

With some items, there is even an element of make-believe at play, in which we physically interact with the book’s representation of an item. For example, in the classic Good Night Moon, there is a “bowl of mush” referenced a couple times. On one page, it is featured prominently, large and centered. She will smirk at me and point to the bowl of mush, indicating that she wants me to ‘eat’ it.

So I bring the book to my face, and playfully gobble at the mush. Then Charlotte wants her turn. She will lean her little head in, and make a quiet gobbling noise at the mush.

If a book has a baby in it, she may want to lean in and kiss the baby.

She may want me or her mom to name multiple animals, or she may want to consistently find the same animal across different pages. If the book has dancing in it, she may want to dance along, in her own way.

She enjoys reading, yes. Not only will she bring me or her mother a book to read, but she will usually want it to be read a second time. And a third. And a fourth. And…

But her daddy very much enjoys these sessions as well. If she wants me to read Good Night Moon eight times in a row, then darn it, I will savor every second. Well, ideally I will, anyway. Her daddy is not always a perfect, patient daddy.

Really, I do want to savor these moments. I sense the value in them. Having fun is great, but doing so while truly bonding is even better. And the formative aspects are wonderful as well.

If it is a book I know fairly well (which can happen, when your kid has made you read the same book four dozen times this week, right?), I will sometimes say the words on the page — but watch her face as I ‘read.’

I like to see what catches her gaze, whether she is focusing intensely on something or letting her eyes flicker about, whether she is looking towards a general area or for a specific subject.

I like to consider the associations she is already forming, both positive and negative. I like to think about the chemistry in her brain, the nerves, and what connections are already being strengthened through repetition into what will one day hopefully form healthy habits.

I know you cannot hinge all your hopes on a session of reading children’s books. Yet, there is a hope there nonetheless, a quiet-yet-mighty force in her person.

I hope our mutual love of reading, as a family, will remain a mighty force for years to come.