Having a 4-year old, I have a standing routine where we read two stories before bed every night. She always tries to con me into “one more book, mommy”.
I try to keep the books educational, appropriate, and when I can get away with it, good literature. As far as the good literature goes, I’ve succeeded with A.A.Milne books about Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan. By succeeded I mean that she allows me to read these to her, even though the copies I have contain minimum to nil pictures. She actually listens and asks intelligent questions when something goes over her head.
I have failed with a number of other books, including Alice in Wonderland (and Lewis Carrol’s other stories), A Little Princess, and I even tried once (with utter and complete failure to my dismay) Harry Potter.
There is hope, though. Some of the picture books I read to her are actually pretty great for little bibliophiles. She really enjoys this version of The Princess and the Pea, the Strega Nona books, which I mostly bought out of nostalgia, and a lot of the Dr Seuss books that were my favorites as a kid (Oh, the Places you’ll go, McElligot’s Pool, and others).
She memorizes certain books, which fascinates me. She will recite entire books from memory if you get her on a roll. Her favorites are pretty much anything in the Pete the Cat series. I get it. They are sort of song-y and have a certain melodic flow about them. They are not my personal favorites, because the hundredth time you hear a shrill toddler voice belting out “I’m Rockin’ in my School Shoes!”, your brain begins to eat itself. However, the messages of the books are not something I can argue with. They are pretty educational and she’s learned certain skills (counting backwards, associating names of places with the function of that place, the books are very clever and engaging to toddlers), and they all have an “it’s all good” sort of message that I guess is supposed to help little ones not see small problems as the end of the world.
Anyway, bad books, good books, annoying books, whatever; What I really enjoy is spending that time with her. It makes me so happy and so proud that my little girl loves reading and books as much as I do. I didn’t really get bedtime stories as a child, I think my mom was probably too busy just trying to keep the rent paid and food on the table. When I read to her, its a way for us both to communicate and also give me some background material to reference when I can’t quite understand what she’s saying – for example, when I can’t understand her words (she still has some trouble pronouncing certain things) she often goes to books as a reference point because she knows that it will help me to understand as we both experienced the story together. She knows that I’ll be able to find the connection that way. It’s amazing to me how much our little routine means to her, and it’s something we share, just us. I didn’t think it would become such a special and treasured time for me, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Here is an Article detailing the many benefits of reading to children.
And a quote, to end with:
“When it comes down to it, I don’t have much in the way of advice to offer you, but here it is: Read to children. Vote. And never buy anything from a man who’s selling fear.”
― Mary Doria Russell, Dreamers of the Day