When I was growing up, I loved reading. Books took me to strange, wonderful, magical, exciting and far off places. They introduced me to history, geography, science and helped me shape my ideals and values.
My earliest memories of having a book is when I was five. My maternal grandparents took me on a day out to the Botanical Gardens and bought me a storybook afterwards. It’s a lovely memory and one I treasure.
At the end of Class 1 (grade 1) I won a book prize for art. While waiting for my grandfather to fetch me, I read the whole book without quite realizing it. I still remember that when I finished it, I was a bit astonished…. It dawned on me that I COULD READ… And thus began a love of reading.
Reading kept me out of trouble and teenage angst. I did not read the classics but, romance, adventure, murder mysteries, spy thrillers, folk tales…. I loved it. I devoured it. And as I got older, bibliographies, South African history, Salman Rushdie, Amitav Ghosh and others. I loved going to the library and would go least once a week.
So it would stand to reason that in a home where both parents love reading, love stories and have a business that involves stories, the children in that home would also love reading.
Alas, no. With one exception.
I started reading to Kuvera (9) and telling her stories from the time she was about 2 weeks old… Every single day and as she got older…every night. She loved it. She had her first library card at 17 months. We have instilled in her a real love for books…now she reads one a day.
Samara, Samara, Samara….loves stories but loves having them read to her. She would read one paragragh or one page and then play. She would feel very sleepy, very tired. Lots of excuses.
But, very slowly, she is starting to read on her own. Right now, she loves listening to Robben Island stories and has recently started Jenny Dale’s Puppy Tales series. One book a week, but, totally on her own. Very proud of her. I have to remind her to read but, she is getting there. All that listening has developed her imagination. She is a great story teller…very imaginative, very expressive, takes a bit long but, she gets there.
Now Neruna (4), on the other hand, would rather watch TV. How sad.
So, where did it go wrong? I needed to know so that I could fix it. Could be when we got satellite TV and the girls would watch a cartoon before going to bed? Could it be that we went to the library less often? Could it be that we would play a game before bed instead of reading a story? Could it be that as Kuvera was learning to read, I would ask her to read her school reader instead of me reading to the girls? Could it be that sometimes they would take the iPad to bed and play a game?
Could it just be ME? I would take the girls to bed and be so exhausted and sleepy that it was just easier if Kuvera read, if they played on the iPad, if they sang a song. Or I would be busy doing something else and would just put Neruna into bed and carry on with what I was doing. Or the older two girls needed help with their homework and she would watch TV. I just did not read to her as often as I should have. No excuses.
And then this year when Neruna started preschool she would finish at 12 pm and we would have to wait for Kuvera and Samara to finish school before we could go home. We would sometimes wait in the library. I would work…and Neruna would be left to colour or draw or play with her toy animals or page through a book…So a bit tired and a bit sleepy, she started hating the library…a place she associated with me working and her not being allowed to speak.
She hated having to be quiet. She hated having to sit there. She hated having to page through the books. She would suddenly be hungry or thirsty or crabby or tired or anything, just to get out of there. She would whine and fuss until we left.
Something had to be done.
So, on Monday this week, we went to the library. Just the two of us. We found a spot where no one would disturb us. I picked about four soft cover books with lots of pictures and lovely fonts. I sat on the floor and she sat on my lap. I held her close and I read the story to her. She really liked the story. We read it again and if she could help it we would have read the same story again and again. She did not fuss. She did not whine. She was not thirsty or hungry or sleepy. I think she just enjoyed the fact that I focussed on her. I did not leave her to her own devices while I worked on my iPad. I did not tell her to shush. I did not tell her to sit down and stop running around. Small baby steps. But, it’s working. We went back yesterday for about 15 minutes and this time, SHE found a book. So, I think we will be going back, just the 2 of us (minus the iPad), much more often.
I still have not read to her at bedtime because there’s so many things to do but, I think we can find about 15 minutes everyday before her sisters finish school. Mummy and Neruna time. Yeah, can’t wait.
THIS PIC WAS TAKEN EARLIER THIS YEAR. NERUNA WAS SO TIRED, SHE JUST FELL ASLEEP AT THE LIBRARY.