One of the most rewarding parts of my day is reading to my daughter at bedtime. I’ve been reading to her from the moment she was born.
When she was a baby, the sound of my voice soothed her as I read her short poems and sang her songs.
When she was a toddler exploring her environment, soft books with tactile features amused her to no end.
We read board books as she learned more about the world around her. She began recognizing images and putting them together with words. Her favorites were Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and Big Red Barn; and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Lonely Firefly, and The Very Busy Spider.
As she extended her command of language, her love for books grew. She got into Dr. Seuss and the poetry of Shel Silverstein.
Long before she learned to read she had memorized Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, Skelly the Skeleton Girl by Jimmie Pickering, and Dr. Seuss’s One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.
By the time she started kindergarten we were reading long form books. The first one was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which began our journey through the L. Frank Baum series. After that we dove into the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. While waiting for the latest Dragon series release, we read all 7 books of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
In third grade she started reading Roald Dahl on her own: Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and The BFG. At this point in time she already has a wide social life separate from me, and a great many interests she pursues on her own.
I still read to her at bedtime, even though she can very well read by herself. We take turns, two pages each. We read The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony Diterlizzi and Holly Black. We read Greek mythology and the book of Genesis.
When I started reading to my daughter, I thought I was simply teaching her how to read and love books. What I’ve learned is that there is so much more to it than that. Most of the books I read to her, I had never read myself before. I was experiencing these stories for the first time with her. This was not a case of me, the elder, imparting wisdom to my young. We were sharing laughter, spontaneous bursts of tears, and epiphanies together. We were learning so much about ourselves and each other while we read. Most of all we’ve developed a language and a culture between us based on a literary bond we can draw upon as reference as we navigate the real world together.
That is the gift of literature.