What's my favorite part of the day? That's easy.
It's at night, when I get to read books with my son. I love when he snuggles in close to listen. I love when he asks questions. I love when he discovers a book for the first time. I love spending time with him in such a special way.
But, it wasn't always that way. And that's okay too.
When he was younger, he wouldn't hold still for anything, let alone a book. He wiggled. He squirmed. He was totally uninterested. It was tough on a parent like me who had been waiting for years until she had kids of her own to read to. It was hard not to feel like I was doing something wrong.
All kids develop differently, even when it comes to reading aloud.
I frequently hear from parents of kids under three years old who are trying to read to their children but find it extremely frustrating. Children at that age are wiggly, active and have trouble sitting still for anything.
Instead of reading regular picture books, try ones with only a few words per page. Read only one or two short books a night. Songs, nursery rhymes and short poems work very well with that age. So does singing a book. Also, give touch-and-feel and lift-the-flap books a try. Those kinds of books engage children directly and help teach them about books and what they're used for.
As much as you may have dreamed of reading The Cat in the Hat to your children, it's okay to wait a few years until they're ready to hear it.
The main thing to remember is to do what works for your kids. Some three year olds can sit still for a lengthy picture book, while others can't make it through anything much longer than a board book. If you have a seven year old who loves to hear picture books, go right ahead. If your four year old is enjoying chapter books, then by all means, give them a try. If your twelve year old wants to listen to you read a chapter a night, take advantage of that. There aren't any rules or rights and wrongs to reading aloud.
And recognize that it won't always go perfectly. Sometimes your child will be in the mood to be read to and it will be a magical moment for you both. Others times they might feel tired, sick or bored (or you might) and it just doesn't work out as well. And if you're a working parent like me, there are nights where you're just not going to be able to have that time together. That's okay too. Last night, I worked late at the library, and came home to find my son sound asleep. His dad read to him, and I'm glad they got to share that.
Go easy on yourself and your children when it comes to reading aloud. And enjoy the wonderful moments when they happen.
What have your reading aloud experiences been like? I'd love to hear about them.
As your kids head off to school, make sure they have one very important school supply: a library card.
A library card is more than a piece of plastic. It's usually the first tangible thing a child has in their own name. It gives them a sense of ownership and independence and it opens doors for children in so many wonderful ways.
One of my favorite parts of being a children's librarian is giving out those very first library cards. I love watching their faces light up with pride as they receive something that's all their own. Here's what I say:
"Take a good look at the children's reference desk. You're never interrupting a librarian at the desk... we're sitting here waiting for you to ask us a question. Come to us if you need help with homework, or the computer, or finding a book. We'd love to recommend a good book or series for you. No question is ever silly or unimportant."
September is National Library Card sign-up month. It started in 1987 to meet a challenge proposed by then Secretary of Education William Bennett who said: "Let's have a national campaign... every child should obtain a library card- and use it."
Does everyone in your family have a library card? Do you remember getting your first library card? How old were you? How about your children? When did they get theirs?
What would you say to a child getting their first library card?