May 2004

Katie Pannarale Fries

bookslut with baby

Recent Discoveries

The fun is finally starting to begin. Matthew is almost ten months old. I have been waiting since I found out I was pregnant to share the gift of reading with him. And, as it happens, I have been exposing him to books since the day we brought him home from the hospital. But now, at ten months, he’s finally starting to get it.

He’s beginning to get a lot of things: he has figured out how to turn on the TV (although he doesn’t realize he’s turning on the TV -- he just likes pushing the button) and he recently extricated the control key from my computer. But he’s also beginning to understand books. He doesn’t always sit still when I’m reading to him, and he still likes to put the books in his mouth (thank heaven for board and cloth books), but in recent weeks he’s actually started to do a little more.

Recently, while I was reading to him in his room, he crawled out of my lap to the other side of the room and picked up a board book. While I read aloud, he opened his book and began babbling to me. As any parent would, I thought my kid was a genius. He knows what to do with a book! It wasn’t a fluke event: now, when we give him a book to look at in the car, he doesn’t just randomly wave it and chew it before throwing it across the back seat. No, now he looks at the picture and babbles before randomly waving and chewing the book and throwing it across the back seat.

We’ve also been attending “Nursery Time,” our local library’s version of story hour for infants and toddlers. In our case, it’s story half-hour, and there is heavy emphasis on singing and playing with books and puzzles. These events bookend the actual story, which is typically short. However, we aren’t really going for the story. We’re going so Matthew gets used to going to the library. My earliest memories are of going to the library with my parents, and I want Matthew to have the same experience. I know that by exposing him early not just to books, but to places where books are available and appreciated, he himself will develop a greater appreciation for reading. He will learn, through exploring libraries and bookstores on his own, about discovery and making choices for himself. There’s something magical -- to me anyway -- about finding the perfect book on my own, without help from a well-meaning friend or bookstore clerk or librarian. It makes the reading experience that much sweeter.

As for my own reading and discovering these days… I’m doing a lot more discovering than actual reading. I have a stack of books that dates back to last year, just begging to be read. And I keep buying more. I’m now at the point where I can sit down in Matthew’s room and read while he plays, but when he crawls over and pulls himself up, wearing a look on his face that says, “Let’s play,” I find myself putting the book down to build yet another block tower that he will knock over. Some things are just more important.