Bookworm turned eight today. Leaving aside the slight state of shock that I am in from being mother to an eight year old, she was given, among other things, some books. She said to me tonight that her favourite presents were the books, and that they had given her joy.
It was such a beautiful thing to hear. One of the things I really want for my children is to see them grow up with a love of great books. Already Bookworm, as her name suggests, loves reading. But to get joy from a book – I never want her to lose that. I have a friend with a son just slightly younger than Bookworm, and he, after just graduating off staged readers at school to free choice books, has now been put back onto staged readers in a new program, this time with a comprehension test every week. To get a new book the following week, he has to pass the test. When my friend told me this, my heart sank. What a way to make a child lose the joy of reading.
One of the biggest pleasures when we started home education was seeing my children sitting down at home and reading because they wanted to. Bookworm usually wakes up and reads in bed for an hour before she gets up. Snugglepot, too, can often be found on the couch with a book. Even Buttercup, at three, sits for ages looking at books, being read to by me or her sisters, and has an overflowing book basket in her bedroom. In fact, this week she asked me to hurry up and teach her to read!
I was thinking recently about how to make reading such a natural part of life. We recently travelled back home to Australia to visit family. Staying at both my parents’ and my in-laws’ houses, I noticed again that the houses were crammed with books. In virtually every room, every spare wall space, there was a bookshelf. Both my husband and I grew up surrounded by books. We never had to look far to find something to read. Both of us grew up, too, seeing our parents reading. My mum would sit for hours on weekends or holidays, absorbed in a book. Library trips were a regular after school activity, and we were always given books for Christmas and birthdays.
These are all things that I want to give my children. I want them to grow up with books just being part of the house, just accepted as normal, yet also treasured, exclaimed over, read, shared, and discussed.
It seems to be working. My kids are often found sitting side by side, noses in books. Every day we do “Snack and Read Aloud”, and I usually get “One more chapter. Just one more chapter”. Even on the weekend, Snack and Read Aloud is requested, and I often get a book that we are reading dropped beside my plate at dinner time to read another chapter. We don’t sign off how many nights we read in a log book. We don’t particularly pay attention to what “reading level” a book is. We just pick up books and read them, because we like them. It’s part of our family culture. It’s a legacy I want to pass on. I want my grandkids and great grandkids to grow up in houses full of books. Which means I don’t feel guilty when some afternoons, like today, I don’t fold washing because I’m sitting engrossed in a book while the kids are playing. I’m just modelling for them 😉 I’m modelling that books can be a source of joy. That’s what I want to teach my kids.