Like her older brothers – like most kids, I suppose – Kara has always enjoyed being read to as part of her bedtime routine. And, as a book-loving father, I’ve always enjoyed reading to her. But recently she’s moved up a level: now she actively seeks reading opportunities rather than just waiting passively for bedtime to arrive.
As a child, I was lucky. I loved books from a young age, my parents provided a plentiful supply of them and, despite the fact my mother worked nights and was often not around at bedtime, my dad willingly stepped into the breach and would acquiesce to my requests for “one more story, please” every evening without fail. It fuelled a love of reading which is still a big part of me today.
The moment a child’s appreciation for reading moves from passive to active is one of those small but significant milestones as a parent, and a reminder of how much we need to ensure that, as the third child of three, Kara’s needs aren’t forgotten and she isn’t taken for granted.
With Isaac, it was easy. He was our first child, we were eager parents anxious to be good role models for him and – although it didn’t seem that way at the time – we had so much more time to focus on him. At Kara’s age (18 months) Isaac already knew all his colours, was developing an advanced vocabulary and spent a lot of his spare time poring over books and magazines, absorbing every opportunity to develop his literacy.
With Toby, it was trickier. Isaac still occupied a lot of our attention and, although our younger son enjoyed reading, he was more passive, less demanding and less developed in both literacy and speech. I honestly don’t know whether that was due to him being less able or less willing than his brother, or our inability as parents to give him our undivided attention. It’s certainly been something we’ve felt guilty about, although what can you do when neither of us has the ‘luxury’ – I use that word advisedly, as I know it’s anything but! – of being a full-time parent and there are only so many hours in the day?
That nagging guilt about Toby has only increased since Kara’s arrival, with the constant feeling that we are selling all three of them short. So for Kara to start demanding stories – and not just at bedtime – has been something of a relief and an affirmation that, at the least, we are not inhibiting her enjoyment of reading.
Will she turn out to be a proper bookworm like Isaac, who is rarely to be found without either a book or a pencil in his hand? Or will she be more like Toby, who is as happy playing with cars as he is with books?
To be honest, I don’t mind, as long as we’re able to encourage her and give her all the opportunities she wants and needs to read. There’s something particularly sweet about the way she now regularly wanders into either her bedroom or the boys’ and returns wafting a book excitedly in the air and demanding to sit on my lap. It’s as satisfying for me as it is for her. Long may it continue.