Anyone who has known me any length of time, either in reality or online…and in this case ‘anytime’ being more than two rotations of a second hand, knows I like books. I like books in almost any form. I like fiction and non fiction, I like classics and romances, thrillers and whodunits, textbooks and memoirs.
Since Malakai was born, my free time has evaporated however my lying in a darkened room trying to get the sleepless monster to sleep has increased exponentially. Therefore my kindle app has been in near constant use. It’s backlit. It works in the dark. It never runs out (battery, not so much) and when I finish one book I can download 7 more. I’m a fast reader. A really freakishly fast reader. Always have been. So when I say I need 7 more books I’m not even exaggerating. I’m reading my way through the rather murky guarantee-less waters of free ebooks. Some you win. Some you jump through the 17.5 hoops on Amazon to delete from your library. Or intend to. One day.
When I saw articles on addictive phone use and kids I wasn’t worried. I always gave him my attention when he was with me and primarily used it as a kindle or camera during the day, just sending the Giant (aka my husband) pictures of our antics so he didn’t completely miss out. My boy would be a reader; at 3 he already loves books and has 2 groaning bookshelves. I was reading. I wasn’t mindlessly scrolling through Facebook (mostly) or watching endless YouTube videos on all the things I’ve been doing ‘wrong’ my entire life. I was reading. When my sleep-deprived, reduced IQ’d brain had enough Paw Patrol and Octonauts, out came the phone on my lap “Mummy’s reading” I explained happily to my engrossed toddler (yes we limit screen time in favour of outdoor and play time but we don’t eliminate it altogether but that’s another post). And I thought that was fine until one day I left my phone upstairs and was setting up some messy play and my 3 year old freaked out “oh no Mummy, where’s your phone? It’s missing? Where is it?” and my heart sank. He associated the phone with me and me with it. To be without it worried him and that had to change. How can I expect to raise him NOT screen addicted if that’s how he saw me?
So I grabbed a pile of paperbacks from my own groaning but slightly neglected bookshelves and propped them on the arm of the sofa. When came our next tea break and sit down I picked up a book. He watched me.
By day 2 he was cuddling closer as I read and seemed happier to interrupt and engage me.
Day 3 he picked up the book and handed it to me “what’s it say, that book, Mummy?” So I read him a few paragraphs of an old Nora Roberts before he was content and wandered off again. By this point he was losing interest in the phone except as a camera (he likes taking photos as much as I do) and showing more interest in my books, opening them and staring at the print, demanding I read from all of them. So now I read from where I am; whatever I’m reading. And he is even more immersed in his own books, desperately working out the letters; making up stories from the pictures and finding letters everywhere.
I never thought such a small thing could have such a huge effect; much less as quickly as it did. I still read my kindle at night, in the dark but now I try and let him see me read from books as often as I can; let him see them scattered around, let him know what’s inside the pages. I have never restricted access to my books, from my nature books to my bible, my dictionary and my novels. All are available to him to page through, stare at and wonder over. And now he sees me do the same. If I have to reread a book because the one I really want I don’t own in paperback, well I kept them for that very reason; if I have to ‘force’ myself to pick up stacks more books well we all sacrifice for our kid, right?! If I have to retrain myself then so be it. I am raising a reader simply by being obviously and overtly a reader myself.
Lesson learned, kiddo.