“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”— Dr. Seuss from the book “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”
I grew up in a humble, middle class home to Croatian immigrants in Windsor, Ontario. Both my parents worked in the auto industry. We grew up simply and I had a wonderful and modest childhood. We didn’t have anything extravagant growing up, but the one thing I do remember was that monthly order from Scholastic Book Club. My parents felt it was very important to expose us to books as they believed it was vital towards our education and development. I remember the pure joy and excitement when that monthly book order would arrive. My father, with his best efforts in his broken English, would read to my brother and I every night before bed when he worked days’ shift. It was during these precious moments where I developed this love for reading. “Corduroy” by Don Freeman remains to this day one of my favourite children’s tales.
When I became pregnant with my first son, I started putting together a little children’s library. I remember starting it with a Croatian alphabet book that we had purchased in Croatia during our “babymoon.” Books such as “I Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch and “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney filled the shelves. However, my oldest son surprised us nearly three months early and spent some time in the NICU. During his NICU stay, we were made aware about the benefits of reading and singing to premature infants. Various academic studies noted the following benefits of reading to premature infants, namely, increased bonding between parent and child, decreased stress levels, language and overall brain development in premature infants. For those reasons, I made it my life’s mission to read to him every day during our NICU stay….and to this very day, I still do. In general, padeiatricians and early childhood educators have recommended that reading should start during infancy. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society’s website, reading to children can “help prepare them for school and set them up for success later in life.”
As a parent, I think its so important to take the time to read to kids, especially in this age of iPhones and tablets. Although I understand that technology is now a normal part of society, I also believe in balance: in teaching kids the importance of reading and being read to. This means not just simply teaching children how to read, but to help them formulate ideas, comprehension, imagination and most importantly, to appreciate the value of a good book. The goal is simple: using reading as a tool to spark their little imaginations and to help them grow.
It makes me proud knowing that my boys enjoy being read to, sometimes multiple times a day! My oldest son is now in grade 1 and he just started reading; while my youngest who is now in junior kindergarten, is trying to read as well. It’s been amazing to us as parents to see how reading has sparked that curiosity inside of them not just through story time, but through imaginative play and art.
The boys definitely have some favourite books who are constantly on rotation- Dr. Seuss and Robert Munch, to name a few. They also enjoy the many books we brought back from Croatia, such as Moje Male Molitve za Svaki Dan (Everyday Prayers,) or Gdje si, mala maco? (Where are you, little kitten?) Pre-covid, we used to spend many weekends venturing out to our local library, exploring all the books on the shelves and checking out new releases. Story time has overall fostered a positive impact on their lives and have formulated fond memories for all of us. For instance, whenever I see the book, “On The Night You Were Born,” (by Nancy Tillman,) it always brings me back to those early days when we brought our oldest son home from the hospital.
Story time has certainly strengthened our bond as a family and it’s something we look forward to after a long day. Life has definitely come full circle: to that time way back in Windsor when my father, in that very broken English, used to read to me, to the present day where I now read to my two small boys. It is my hope that one day, my boys will read to their future children too. Reading and appreciating books is a gift that we must never take for granted.
Some of my children’s favourite books:
- “Say Something” by Peter H. Reynolds
- “I am Human” by Susan Verde
- “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss
- “Oh The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss
- “I Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch
- “Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons” by Eric Litwin
- “Icky Little Duckling” by Steve Smallman
- Canadian Paediatric Society “Early Literacy” – https://www.cps.ca/en/strategic-priorities/literacy