My lovely friend, Teresa, recently shared with me her personal experiences with growing up as a reluctant reader, but desiring for her sons to have rich and meaningful experiences with books. Here, she discusses how she overcame her own resistance to books and developed daily practices with her family to promote sign language, literacy and a love of learning through books!
When I think back to reading while growing up, I am plagued by the agonizing memory of headaches–I hated it. I always said that I hate reading, that I’m not a reader. Through high school I never read the textbooks and it showed on my report card. Even in college, I never read my Occupational Therapy books–how I got straight A’s in the program was only my validation that I was on the right career path because it came so naturally. I later learned that I am a kinesthetic learner: because of the way I took notes in college, when it came to test day I could “see” right where I had written the answer in my notebook.
When my husband and I were expecting our first child, Eli, I consistently read the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book, the holy grail of pregnancy! Soon after having him, I knew I needed to read more books to figure this parenting thing out. I found myself reading everything that came my way about breastfeeding, sign language, child development, raising a child by God’s grace…the list goes on and on! But within that process, something clicked. I realized I do love to read!
When I thought back to my childhood, and even talked to my mom, we never had shelves of books in our house. I never remember sitting around reading a book, or seeing her read. I knew at that time that I wanted my boy to enjoy reading and do well in school and THIS was the key component I had missed when growing up.
At 3 months of age, I started taking Eli to a reading program at our then local library in Colorado Springs. It was a 30 minute class with other new moms. It started with a little song/finger play, then they’d read a book and had the same one to pass out to each child for them to explore. We would learn a “sign” that related to the story like “more”, “milk” ,”bear” and so forth. At the end, the babies would get to play with some toys, we’d sing one last song at that was it. We did this program for about 9 months and by this time I was pregnant with #2 and was just too tired, so we took a few months off! On top of the reading program, I would check out a few books and read them with him each day and did quite a bit of sign language using the book, “Baby Signing 1 2 3: The Easy-to-Use Illustrated Guide for Every Stage and Every Age” by Nancy Cadjan. I made flash cards of all the signs, laminated them and put them on key chains in various places around the house so we could keep introducing new signs to him.
Around 12 months we started spelling out his name with foam letters in the bathtub. Somewhere around 18 months we realized he was saying the letters E and H…he would laugh hysterically when we say them, and we realized that he really “knew” them consistently. So, I started really working on all the letters with him. By 2 years he knew all of his letters and their letter sound. By 3 he knew simple site words and now at around 3.5 he can read simple books. As far as Ian goes, our second son, he’s a sharp little guy too! He is 2.5 and also knows all his letters and about 20 letter sounds, can spell his name, can count to 14, knows about 8 shapes and 8 of the basic colors. We also read a book to them every night and go to the library about every week. Our community has an awesome library…the boys start by going in and coloring, then they sing songs, read a book, learn a new “sign” and finish up with 3-4 stations of sensory play/fine motor activities.
I feel like all of these literacy experiences (signing, letter recognition, family reading and library time) has made reading more enjoyable for the boys. Daily, Ian can be found laying on the floor surrounded by books or curled up on the couch with one. And during “nap” time in the afternoon, Eli has books sprawled across his bedroom floor and I can hear him reading them aloud. He often acts out the stories he’s read with toys around the house…it’s really neat to see! I’m glad they get so much enjoyment out of reading (especially since I didn’t while growing up) and I do believe it will help them to be a lifelong learners!