As a pediatrician and a mother to twin daughters, I am a huge fan of Raising Readers and the power of books. I loved books myself as a little girl. During early elementary school, I dreamed of being an astronaut. I was obsessed with the idea of being among the stars. I still dream of seeing the Earth from outer space. I was devastated when the Challenger disaster occurred. I was left without a dream and started to explore other career options. For a while, I thought I might be a librarian. I even set up my own library in my bedroom. I still have some books from my childhood that contain my name written in them because I wanted people to remember to return them to me. In the third grade, I read The First Woman Doctor by Rachel Baker. After reading this biography written about Elizabeth Blackwell, I was instantly sold on being a doctor. This book was so influential on my life, motivating me to work hard in school and set my sights on a medical career.
Create a home library by asking families and friend to bring books to baby showers.
During my pregnancy, my mother and mother-in-law helped create a library for my twin daughters by asking family and friends to bring books to my baby shower. We got dozens of books, along with all the other essential baby items. This was such a powerful gift. I started reading to my daughters as soon as they came home from the hospital, starting with Goodnight Moon. I loved reading the personalized inscriptions inside the books as we pulled them off the shelf to read before bed. Although we don’t still own all of those books that we received 11 years ago, I treasure the ones that have survived through a household of toddlers and dogs. I hope that my girls will be able to share some of these books with their own children in the future.
Books are powerful because they teach more than just words or concepts.
One of my favorite videos from when my kids were little depicts one of my daughters around the age of 2.5 years old “reading” Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle. She had memorized the book and used the pictures to help prompt her. She even added in her own touch by singing “Ba Ba Black Sheep” when she reached the page containing a black sheep. This video tugs at my heartstrings every time I watch it. She had to use visual cues and her imagination to “read” that book. Books have been a constant in their lives. It is no surprise to me that my daughters have blossomed in to amazing readers.
Reading is powerful because it brings me closer to my children.
Now that they are 10 years old, we can now share stories. I have a stack of books that they want me to read because they loved the stories so much and now want to share them with me, just as I wanted to share so many great books with them when they were younger! I recently read Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana. It was a gripping story of the struggle of a girl and her family during Hurricane Katrina. I was blown away at how powerful this book was, all while being appropriate for my tweenage readers. I cried multiple times while reading this book because I was so struck by the bravery throughout the story. It made me want to read all the books my daughters recommend. At their recent school conferences, my children were each described by their 5th grade teachers as being voracious readers. It is so true! Not only do they love to read; my children live to read.
Books allow us to pass stories on from generation to generation.
As I was visiting a friend’s new baby this fall, I started thinking about the power of reading. He is only 3 months old, but I wanted to share a story with him. My eye was drawn to a copy of The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter on the bookshelf in their living room. One of the things I loved about this book was that, not only is it a classic, but it also appeared to be well loved. After I finished reading, I noticed an inscription on the inside cover. The book had been a 5th birthday gift to my friend’s wife and now I was reading it to her child. One of the powers of books is that they allow us to pass stories on from generation to generation.
Book bring people together.
For Mother’s Day, my family promised me that we could build a Little Free Library for our yard. It has truly been a family affair. After I picked out the plans, my father has been cutting out all the wood. I am looking forward to building and decorating it. It should be up for my neighborhood to share by spring. It is my dream that reading will unite neighbors of all ages. Books are powerful because they bring people together.
The secret to raising readers is having everyone invested in reading.
People often ask me what I “did” to make my kids great readers. Reading to them every day is part of why they are passionate readers now. Books have been a part of their every day. It would be unusual for them to go a day without books. Just tonight, they were upset that they could not read for longer at bedtime. I think that the secret to raising readers is having everyone invested in reading. Not only did my husband and I read to them nightly, but reading was encouraged by so many other people in their lives. The have wonderful grandparents that would read with them and purchase books as gifts. They received Raising Readers books at their well child checks. They went to a fantastic pre-school, where books were a part of their daily curriculum. We started visiting the library when they were young and continue to go to our local library.
Be a reading role model.
Another important ingredient in the recipe for creating readers is role modeling. I have started to read alongside my children at bedtime, rather than spending that time on my cell phone. As my daughters transition to the teenager years, I want to them to continue to reach for books over technology. I want them to see me making that conscious choice and hope that they will do the same thing. I know that books will continue to be a staple in their lives. I credit Raising Readers as one of powerful forces that helped influence my daughters to become passionate about reading.
Guest blogger Jennifer Dubail is a practicing pediatrician in Portland, Maine.