“The moon is high. The sea is deep. They rock…and rock…and rock… to sleep.” I closed The Going To Bed Book, by Sandra Boynton, yawned, and kissed my sleepy girl on her forehead. We’ve read this book so many times we both have it memorized. Darcy looked up at me and said one of my favorite sentences: “One more story, please?”
I love spending time with my girls, but my absolute favorite thing that we do together is READ.
My mom used to read to my siblings and me every night. Ferdinand, Little Bear, Charlotte's Web and Harry Potter are a few of our classic favorites. I attribute my childhood bedtime routine as the reason I became an English teacher, a writer, earned my master’s degree to become a librarian, and now enthusiastically read with my daughters every day. Because my mom read to me, I am passionate about learning and modeling this for my daughters.
A study conducted in 2019 by Ohio State found that children whose parents read five books a day to them enter kindergarten having heard 1.4 MILLION more words than kids who don’t read at home. Even reading one book a day exposes kids to almost 300,000 new words before they enter kindergarten.
Reading with your babies and toddlers is one of the best ways you can spend your time together, and not just for their vocabulary. It's also the key ingredient to helping my girls sleep well.
According to Healthline, reading before bed eases stress and anxiety while improving the quality and duration of sleep for all ages. Reading together establishes a peaceful environment, which helps l children to associate learning with love and to rest easily.
I began reading with both of my girls the day I brought them home from the hospital. One of my all time favorite memories is watching Darcy read to her younger sister for the first time. Laney, who was just a few days old, was completely enchanted with the sound of her big sister reading to her.
Reading is a part of our nightly routine, just like brushing our teeth and putting on günamüna pjs. Here are some strategies to make reading a part of your routine as well.
It’s never too late to raise a reader. Spend just ten minutes every day reading with your babies, no matter the age! You’ll fall in love with this special time together and soon your children will be begging you to read one more story too.
Get Your Toddler Involved
If your toddler is old enough to help you pick out a story, involve them as much as you can. “Ok, let’s pick out two stories to read tonight. I’ll choose one and you choose one. Good choice! I love this book!” Giving them the important job of picking a book will make them look forward to this routine even more.
It’s Not What You Read, It’s How You read
When Darcy was a baby I used to read my novels out loud to her. She was comforted by the sound of my voice and transfixed by my facial expressions. (Sherlock Holmes was one of her favorites!) The exposure to new words and time with you is wonderful for learning and brain development. You can even read one of your favorite magazines or a cookbook out loud!
Reading X Two
Laney wants to EAT every book I try to read to Darcy. If you have a six-month-old, you know what I’m talking about! It has become somewhat challenging to read to both my girls without someone getting frustrated. My new strategy is to give Laney a soft or crinkly baby book to gnaw on while I read. That way both of my girls get to listen, see the pictures, and share in the magic and joy of story time.
Connect Books to Your Life
Darcy and I talk about books all the time. For example, while puddle jumping I mentioned that the puddle was just like the one in the story A Frog Named Fred and a Turtle Named Ted. Her eyes lit up as she made this connection. While reading Strega Nona, Darcy said “Mama! Those noodles are just like the noodles WE EAT!” It’s an incredible thing to watch her get excited about books and learning.
Share Your Enthusiasm
Your enthusiasm is contagious. You can even make cleaning up fun for your little one if you show them that you’re having fun too. I try never to rush story time. Sometimes we read a book three or four times because I know that my girls are learning new things each time we read. It’s important that I never make reading feel like a chore or an obligation, because it isn’t! It’s an opportunity to spend meaningful time together. I know that I am igniting their imagination and changing their life each time we read together.
Spencer Russell is an award winning teacher, a dad, and a reading specialist. He taught his two-year-old son to read, to really read. Now he offers step by step training to parents to help their toddlers read as well because Spencer knows what a difference reading can make in the life of a child.
“Learning to read is one of the most important skills a child will ever learn. And since their reading ability will impact nearly every aspect of their lives, I knew it would be critical to read to my son often, to get him interested and engaged with stories, and eventually to help him begin reading those books on his own!”
Follow Spencer and his incredible work on Instagram @toddlerscanread for more reading tips.
Reading with your little one will help them to fall in love with learning, strengthen your relationship, decrease both of your stress levels, AND improve sleep. We told you this was a game changer!