Want to know my biggest handwringer of all? Not reading enough to my daughter. What can I say? She’s never enjoyed being read to. As a book nerd, I don’t say this lightly. She has never, ever enjoyed being read to.
She enjoyed looking at picture books, but the moment I entered the scene and said, “Would you like me to read it to you?” she was on to the next activity.
THE BIG NO
It nagged at me, this not reading to her. And I have already mentioned how every homeschool catalog I have induces more guilt in me by showing me pictures of happy children and their mom sprawled on a blanket or the couch reading. I mean, do they ever get up to bathe? To eat? Do they even stop smiling?
It really bothered me, this inability to read to my own daughter, her pushing me away unless there were pictures on the page, holding us together in an uncomfortable understanding of a light truce. It ate at my joy in motherhood. What kind of a mom am I? I wondered. I don’t… um, can’t read to my own daughter. When friends asked me if we were reading Little House on the Prairie, I smiled and said nothing. Inside, I withered.
I would wait a few days, weeks, and try again. Her response was always to find something else to do.
Finally, I decided enough was enough. She would sit there and listen. By this time, we had grown our family. I now had three children to read to. We found ourselves on the couch. Not smiling, but disciplining. My older two looked defeated. The only child who enjoyed story time was the baby. Go figure.
It continued like this for many long months until the breakthrough happened.
The stomach flu entered our family. There wasn’t much to do in those weeks. We were lying around, not doing much school, not doing much at all. At the end of the day, we felt sad, the day had been wasted. It’s not like we’re very productive people, but we all like going to be thinking we’ve been of some use.
I kissed my daughter good night, tucked her in bed, saw her sad little face not want to go to bed after a two days of feeling like her insides were turning into jelly, and said, “Would you like me to read to you?”
She was almost seven. We had been treating being read to as an exercise in torture since she was five. I did not anticipate her response.
“YES!” she said. Her face lit up in spite of her sickness.
I got into her bed, cuddled with her and read a chapter from a chapter book. Finally, finally, read! She had rapt attention. At the end of it, I got a long hug. We have continued to read in bed ever since.
I don’t know. But I have a few well-thought out guesses.
She wasn’t ready for it. Why do we assume that children should and shouldn’t do things within a specific age range? She began to get interested in being read to only when she herself started to read. It’s always been like that. She didn’t speak a word until she could frame a sentence. It’s a personality trait.
Also, she probably wanted to read to in the quieter part of the day, when things were winding down. She still wakes up bounding out of bed. Getting someone who is so excited to start the day to sit down and be passive can be rough. Finally, I think my own attitude had a lot to do with it.
Because I was relaxed and not disciplining while I was reading, because I didn’t think I had to play a role, but just read to her for fun, she finally relaxed into it.
Reading to her is my favorite part of the day.