Sitting at the computer, there is a wall of books, double deep, to my right. Over my left shoulder, across the room, there is another small bookshelf spilling the baby books out. In my bedroom, we have a bookshelf stacked tight with hardbacks and paperbacks, then the dressers that serves as my nightstand has several book towers teetering precariously on top. In Gabbi’s room, there are more spilling baby books from her book shelf, and Dominic’s room has a bookshelf jam-packed.
Then there’s the guest room, where we need to purchase a bookshelf for the filing boxes, stacked three high, with books. And in the living room, that bookshelf is crammed with a mix of piano music, Shakespeare, and cookbooks.
We have books.
Just a few.
And yet, I wonder if I manage to read a full 15 minutes from any of these books to my kids each day.
That’s the recommendation, since birth, coming from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Did you know that? They specifically outline reading 15 minutes, aloud, every day, to your child starting at birth.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot ever since Nathan and I went to dinner a few weeks back with my Dad and some of his friends. One of them happened to be the former superintendent from the Salt Lake school district. It was fascinating to hear him talk about his work and emphasis (as an education consultant now) on early childhood education.
The feeling in this country seems to be that our school system is sub-par.
We don’t seem to compare with other first-world nations.
But the problem isn’t in the schools, he argued. Once the kids get to school, they’re already so far behind, they’ll never catch up. The intervention needs to be in the home, from birth. So much development happens in their little brains before they show up for their first day of kindergarten, or even preschool.
So I’ve been thinking about this, and have developed a bias to finding stories about this as I peruse the interwebs.
One in particular stated the troubling statistic that only 34% of parents hit the mark of reading aloud to their kids each day for 15 minutes.
I also think back on a book I read when Dom was first born: Brain Rules for Baby. It focused on providing some of the following for your child: healthy pregnancy, have a support group, work on your marriage, describe everything you see and do, put options in the playroom (drawing, music, costumes, blocks, books, gears, etc), not hyper-parenting, watching your own behavior, encourage hard work, limit electronics, etc.
I think of the kids at Nathan’s school that might be struggling and I’ve heard stories about parents in jail, homeless parents, working-multiple-jobs parents, parents without any English language skills, grandparents stepping in, grandparents attempting to step in, and so on. These kids aren’t being read to. Nobody’s setting them up with a playroom. Their parents aren’t congratulating them when they work hard at their homework.
I don’t worry about my two kids and whether I’m hitting that 15 minute mark on the head, because I do read to them every day, in varying amounts of time, and they are surrounded by books so that has to mean something.
As I read Gabbi’s bedtime story with her tonight, she pointed at the paintings of the animals on the pages and jabbered on with some noises. When I’ve been reading stories with Dom lately, he’s been asking me to teach him the words, too, so we read each page slowly and he repeats the words back to me.
One of the amazing things to me about reading with my kids is that it gives me the ability to experience their language development every day. It’s incredible to me. And I am never left without gratitude for two little children that learn and grow and experience this world with attitudes full of hope. They don’t worry about presidential elections, terrorist groups, paying bills, or if there’s acne on their jawline. Every day is new and fascinating. When we read the same book together over and over and over, day after day, it’s still the best to them.