It doesn't matter what you read in the beginning, as long as you read to your infant.
Last September, we welcomed our first child. Uriah was born on Labor Day weekend at 3 AM, and by 6 PM my husband Nick was reading aloud Lynley Dodd’s beloved Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy.
Days prior, I can remember packing for the hospital and being more concerned about what book to bring than anything else. It was a toss-up between Hairy Maclary and Harry Potter. I’m 100% serious. We packed them both! Uriah remained in the hospital for days following his birth. So, multiple times a day, we made our way down to the nursery and read aloud to our son. But we soon discovered picture books were not the only way to satisfy our son’s literacy appetite, and certainly not our own. So we started reading whatever we wanted and found joy in! Whatever excited us! And we rocked it as best we could!!!
[[nid:579]]At three months old, Uriah had heard all of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; every page, every word, out loud. For years I’ve wanted to reread J.K. Rowling’s series, so Uriah became my perfect reason to revisit Hogwarts.
[[nid:1145]]Nick picked Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book as his first chapter book to share with Uriah. It was an easy choice after hearing how much a friend of ours loved the story. One week after finishing Gaiman, Nick watched The Hobbit in theaters and decided to dive into J.R.R. Tolkien. Uriah got to tag along as they journeyed through the Shire and Middle Earth.
[[nid:1146]][[nid:1148]]These days Nick splits their read aloud time between Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring and Kelly Starrett’s new book Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance. Sounds random, but Nick teaches Exercise Science, therefore, he enjoys reading books about exercise…and so does Uriah! Weeks before its release date, Nick went around the house telling us how excited he was about Starett’s book, and how he couldn’t wait to start reading it to Uriah. Nick was so excited, I wanted to read it!
And that’s the point. The joy of reading is contagious! Showing a child that you enjoy books is just as important as teaching them the alphabet or any other pre-reading skill. Learning to read is one thing. Wanting to learn to read and developing a love for reading is another. Luckily, we can demonstrate both by happily reading aloud whatever we enjoy, especially when babies are too small to fully understand the words.
And in the case of infants, until they are old enough to choose a favorite, enjoy the freedom of choosing books for them. If we had relied solely on picture books, Uriah would have missed out on some great dramatic readings, not to mention exposure to the wonderful rich sounds of language. He certainly would’ve missed out on performing a deadlift and overhead squat properly! The time we spend reading to Uriah has also helped us to rediscover our own love of reading. It’s a win-win situation.
[[nid:1151]]For more encouragement on reading aloud to children, please check out Mem Fox’s book Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever. I certainly recommend this book for busy people…it’s short, sweet and hilarious.