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My Baby Eats Books: Four Tips on Raising a Reader

Sep 10, 2013

It is amazing how we as parents adapt and grow through parenthood just as much (if not more) as our children do.  I have often heard people say “the first child is the practice child”, despite the clear negative connotation, I would have to admit there is some truth in this idiom. I am sure no one plans to use their first baby as a guinea pig for future children.  (Imagine a mother naming her twins; Trial and Error. )  But let's be honest, as new parents we have no idea what to expect.  There is certainly no shortage of adequate preparedness and training material available on the topic of parenting.  The resources are there, yet and still I don't know of a single mom or dad whom within the first week has not had to make that reluctant call to their own parents for advice. I remember a conversation with my mother that sounded like this:

Me: “But mom, she rolled...I have “What to Expect the First Year”  right here and it clearly says she shouldn't be rolling until chapter three.

Upon careful consideration I have been able to fess up to the hard truth of some mistakes I have made along the way with my now 7 year old daughter.  As I began to prepare for the arrival of my second child I made a list of some of these things and swore to right my own parenting wrongs;

Baby number 2 will not have sugary drinks in his sippy cup. 

Baby number 2 will only eat organic peas and carrots.

Baby number 2 will listen to classical music at nap time.

Well baby number 2; my son, has been here for 16 months now and that nice little list, if I am brutally honest, had a few hits and misses.  What I can say I have found to be much more effective than attempting to correct what I felt at the time to be “incorrect parenting”, is to focus on the things that I did do right with my oldest child and to expound upon those ideas with my second one.


In my profession as creative director for a non-profit organization that promotes literacy at a very early age, I had become incredibly aware of the importance of early reading.  Although my daughter began reading at a fairly young age, the statistics of reading in boys was alarming in gender comparison. Was the reading success achieved with my first child merely beginner's luck? The prenatal paranoia set in. From the moment I found out I was having a boy, I began stock piling every kind of book I could get my hands on. Board books; Soft Books; Hard backs; Paper backs.... those annoying little squeaky ones that float in the bath tub.  I had the determination of a mother driven by the fear of having a son that would detest reading. I began reading to him in the womb in hopes that he would come out singing his ABC's before he was even able to sit without neck support.  I wouldn't go as far as saying I was obsessed, but I had reasonably high expectations. ( If he pronounced L-M-N-O-P as Elementopeas  I would be totally okay with that).

The day finally arrived when I was ready to hand my son his first book.  He looked at it for a moment, made a few curious coos and almost instantly shoved the rounded soft corner into his mouth.  

So maybe my expectations were high, but my instinct to introduce him to books very early was spot on.

Over the last year I have watched his fascination for books progress from chew toy, to toy of choice.  Like most parents I was able to tread my way through the treacherous waves of paranoia and settled at the shore of self awareness.  Parenting is hard and NO parent is perfect.  This experience has led me to collect the following tips for new and expectant book worm moms and dads with great expectations for raising a reader.

1.     Book Munching Is Allowed

The idea that any child will arrive into the world with a library card and a love for reading is lofty at best.  Introduce the books as early as possible so that your child can get a feel for what a book is.  Keep your disinfectant wipes handy as your baby will use the book primarily to soothe his or her aching toothless gums.  It will take awhile before you can progress up to actually opening and reading the book.  Hang in there it gets better.

2.     A Silly Parent Is a great Parent

After a few months of strategic book placement between his binky and favorite rattle, your child will gain a curiosity for opening books and flipping pages.  If your lucky you might even get a chance to read a few words.  Let your silly side come out and thrive! Do whatever you have to do to get the idea of being “read to” across.  Make voices, make faces, dance.  If you feel stupid or silly at any point...your doing it right! The concept is to ensure that when a book is open, fun and adventure comes out. At this point you are the entertainment, not the story.

3.     Forget The Words

Once your child has upgraded from book munching to page flipping you will find they have correctly concluded that books are fun.  Once this clicks, expect to be bombarded with infantile demands to read. At this stage they are finally ready to hear a story but not necessarily the story in the book.  You will find that they may become infatuated with turning the pages so quickly you don't even have time to complete a full sentence.  My advice is to forget the words and focus on story time.  Point to the picture, talk about what you see and even make up a story that goes along with the images that grab your child’s attention the longest.  This is real progress – give yourself a pat on the back at this stage. The simple act of having a child want to be read to is success in itself!

4.     Wrap It Up

You are well on your way to raising a reader.  Keep up the excitement as your child enters the stage of exploring and wanting more toys.  Make sure to keep an eye on the growing book to toy ratio and put in an extra effort to make it clear that books can be just as exciting. Make a special place for reading with a multitude of books in plain sight and as equally accessible as their toy box. Don't forget to give books for birthdays and holidays. Leave a lasting impression of the importance of books and reading and those gestures will not go in vain.

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I love this picture! I am a big reader and want my kids to be readers as well so these are some really good tips to keep in mind.

This is great advice on reading! I'll definitely try it with my kids!

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