Having a verbal home is more important than reading to a child, in my humble opinion, even though it is not politically correct to say so. You’d think from all the icons out there that you had to have storytime twice a day to be a good parent, and that loving literature from the womb was the key to success. But I have to be honest that with four babies in five years, my sit-down storytimes were closer to dozens not hundreds. We had kids’ books around the house, of course, and Goodnight Moon was a big hit. But in general my babies weren’t really interested in sitting down to hear a story. With the exception of their favorite stories, most of the time they would wriggle and squirm all the way through three pages. They wanted to turn pages at the wrong time, go backwards, listen to the dog out the window, stand up, or talk. They really didn’t catch onto the kids’ fables and classics like I’d imagined. And we ventured to Toddler Time at the public library ONCE before we threw in the towel on that (think: everyone else’s idiosyncratic two year old trying to eat Cheerios, rebel with their mother, get out of their stroller, bother their neighbor, all during “The Runaway Bunny”…)
Now at 3, 4, and 5, they are more interested in storytimes and will almost daily ask for them, but I let them roam around and play while I’m telling them (as if I’m telling them to myself) because really there’s no point in making them sit quietly to see all the pages. Sometimes I make my kindergartner take over storytime because they show more active interest in his slower, sounding-out style =)
And yet they are all interested in reading, even my just-turned-three year old. I hear them practicing on their own, teaching each other. I think it is because we have always had a very verbal home… lots of talking, lots of reading and writing (ok, typing) modeled in Mom and Dad, lots of phone calls, lots of kids videos with nursery rhymes, kids CDs at bedtime, visitors and conversations, etc. They have all loved sing-songs, nursery rhymes, and silly sounds. They recite movies, are extremely chatty (even though we had one very late talker), boisterous, and interested in how life works. So my conclusion is that our active parenting, even though we haven’t been the best library goers, has somehow stimulated enough verbosity and motivation to get readers.
Of course I’d never argue this with my English teacher mother ;-) And I am certainly not suggesting you dis your own baby storytime. I am just saying that if, by 18 months, you and your child are not enjoying Pat the Bunny in the rocking chair on an evening by evening basis, don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, and it doesn’t mean your child won’t be interested in reading. As long as you are bonding with your child daily, and encouraging their development, educating them, they will acquire the love and interest in learning that is truly the foundation of academic success.