Monday, October 11, 2010

A Tradition of Reading

Moose used to stay in bed until I, or his father, came and gave him permission to get up. He would often wake and remain as content as a clam for an hour, singing, talking, reading to himself in those early morning hours.

He knew when the time came, usually right around 8am, that he would receive the invitation to get up for snuggles, breakfast, and all things toddler~ chaos, exploration and giggles!

Before my husband and I would go to bed ourselves we would place several books in his crib and at the foot of his toddler bed once he had transitioned to the big boy stuff. Waking up in the morning was a daily activity in surprise. Which books did Momma and Daddy  set out this morning?! 

We do this now for our baby, Finn, who receives only board books as he still spends more time slobbering on things than actually manipulating pages. At ten months old, however, he also wakes up and spends a good half an hour playing delightfully in his crib with books as the beginning of his morning activities.

This behavior, or rather, habit, did not come naturally to either of my kiddos. The natural habit looked something more like this ~ Good morning. I am awake feed me, entertain me, and for goodness sakes turn the cartoons on (please). 

This inclination to wake up and begin the day with demands and rush did not sit well with me. I felt that my children were missing out on a valuable opportunity to learn to capture moments of stillness and reflection, moments of learning and peace, that could come in the morning hours of a quiet house before it turns into the beautiful cacophony of boyhood that it is throughout the day.

Here is what I did (and do!) to turn the mornings into a time of reading:

1. We eliminated morning cartoons, except for Saturday mornings. 
     I do adore PBS. They work hard to have a delightful line up of witty, entertaining, and very educational childrens shows on that begin early for the early riser. As soon as my son woke up he was ready to watch the cartoons. Although I do think that he was beginning his day with quality programming, it was still TV. And, there was often a sense of urgency to get down stairs and turn on the tube! We stopped, cold turkey, morning cartoons and replaced that time with reading. Instead of couch potatoing the morning hours away I give my oldest son the opportunity once a day to get onto and choose one show to watch. He enjoys selecting his own show while sitting at the computer and I  enjoy getting the dishwasher unloaded! The exception comes on Saturday mornings in that on this day we do permit cartoons once it is time to get out of bed. Eliminating TV during the weekdays reduced competition on my children's time. Books were not competing for attention with cartoons.

2. Begin early and Use Increments!
Our baby is ten months old. Little Finn wakes up to books at the foot of his crib. We make certain the the books are safe for him to have, as he still chews, sucks, and slobbers on everything. If he likes it, be sure its going in his mouth! As a nursing mother I did not begin this training with my baby until he was physically capable of waking up and post-poning breakfast. Both with Finn and Moose we began with baby steps.
The morning "stay in bed and read until we come get you" began with five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. Once we reached fifteen minutes our boys did a natural transition to longer time. Currently, Moose (4) reads for an hour each morning and Finn (10 months) "reads" for a half an hour.

3. Model Reading. 
"Mommy, why can't I get up with you?"  Moose has asked it, Finn probably thinks it. The answer that I give them is clear.  Mommy needs time in the morning to prepare for our day, to read a book, pray, and think a linear thought. And, this is what I do. Although hard especially on these coming dark and chilly winter mornings I resist the urge to begin my day with urgency (or to stay in bed!). I sit, coffee in hand, and begin my day with stillness, peace, and a book. On purpose I leave the evidence of this tradition out so that my children stumble upon it. At breakfast I share what I read.

4. Make A Book Club out of Breakfast 
If you are fortunate enough to be able to share breakfast together then use that time to talk about the books of the morning.
"What did you read?"
"Tell me about the funny parts." 
"Oh, my goodness that character is always doing silly things. What do you think he would do if he lived here?" 
"What was your favorite part?" 
And, share about your book.
It might be surprising how much insight your young ones have on topics you think would not interest them. If nothing else, you are teaching them listening skills, expanding their vocabulary, and encouraging them to think for themselves.
If doing this at breakfast is not possible, find another time to have a quick chat about the books. In the car. At the store. While getting ready. Whenever!

5. Keep it Uplifting.
This is not a time of punishment, consequence, or drudgery. Reading is a delight. There have been mornings where my children just could not stay in bed to read because their little bodies were full of excitement. For example~ on vacation!  Using empathy goes a long way. If you do not want to stay in bed on Christmas morning and read because you are too eager to get downstairs to the hot cocoa and festivities then imagine the excitement of your children! Loosen up on vacation and holidays, perhaps Saturdays too. 

6. Dance, Sing, and Silly them Up. 
Once reading time is through, enter your kiddo's room with a happy face. Let them know they did a terrific job. Let them know that by reading they have chosen to begin their day on a good note, which also let you begin your day well. Give them hugs, kisses, tickles, squeezes, and pats. And, go forth. The day began in peace, now the wild rumpus can begin!

Best wishes raising bookworms, life long learners, and global thinkers! 

~ Katie

1 comment:

  1. This was a delight to read! We did the same with our boys, putting books in their hands from the time they were able to sit up in the crib and look at them. (At that time, they were cloth books, then the board books.) I can attest to the fact that both of our boys grew up with a great love of reading, having access to books at an early age, as well as seeing us read, and reading aloud as a family even into their early teen years. At age eighteen months, our firstborn son cried when a page in the book he was reading ripped. At age six he asked for a dictionary for his birthday. And during the summer between his eighth grade and freshman year, he decided on his own to read the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Our second born son was not quite as intense about reading but still has always enjoyed reading very much. Both of them could be found reading at various times of the day, and books in the car made for easier errands out, too.

    Oh, and I love the Book Club at Breakfast idea, Katie!