A few months after Cindy became pregnant we obviously started thinking about things like the baby’s room, furniture, clothing, and the like. Typical first-time parent dicussions, really. I’m betting that parents of multiple children don’t go through all this obession after the first time.
At any rate, like good 21st century technocrats, we opened a baby registry online at target.com, and being the bibliophile that I am, I started putting children’s books in a wishlist at Amazon.
I started the wishlist with good intentions, adding items like Goodnight Moon, which is a board book for very young ones. From there it was a pretty logical progression to Little Golden Books, Babar, Curious George, and Winnie The Pooh. Then there’s the various Dr. Seuss book clubs. How could I raise a little girl that doesn’t know about Green Eggs and Ham?
However, I think I got carried away somewhat, because the list now has books like these:
Now if you’ve read any of these books, you know they’re not for toddlers. As a kid, I was a pretty early and advanced reader, but I didn’t get to any of these kinds of books until I was at least 8.
So am I planning WAY too far ahead? Is it silly to be adding things to a wishlist that my daughter won’t be reading for at least 8 years? I’m going to pretend that it isn’t, and here’s why.
Our daughter-to-be’s room has a giant Ikea bookcase in it. It used to house all of my technical books, a bunch of hardback fiction, my collections of Calvin & Hobbes, Bloom County and other cartoon books, among other things. Since the bookshelf matches the room, it’s staying, and will become our daughter’s bookshelf.
By the time she’s old enough to read, I want that bookshelf to be full, or at least on its way there. The upper shelves will be filled with books that she’s going to grow into, but I am hoping that as she grows from a toddler, she will view those books as a challenge, or an opportunity, or at the very least, she will be used to books as a permanent fixture in her life.
Hopefully she will also see that her parents read, from all the books we have, and most importantly, that we read to her. I know some of my earliest memories are of sitting with my sisters or my dad, reading or being read to, and I’m sure that was part of the reason I was an early and prodigious reader.
Now, I’ve also been told by various people including a sister-in-law, that “forcing” children to read “too early” is a horrible thing. Apparently it causes no end of social adjustment issues. I, for one, am extremely sceptical of this. I refuse to believe that every child can be pigeonholed into this kind of philosophy. Who determines what “too early” is? My sister-in-law told me several years ago that children should not be reading before age 5!
I believe that this kind of blanket restriction is seriously damaging. Children should read when they want to, not when adults decide it’s okay for developmental reasons. Exposure to books and reading, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the most important things we can give our children.