...But it sure is important. What are we talking about, exactly? I'll leave it to frequent OOM contributor Julia Graeper from the Scholastic Education group.
Yesterday I was talking to a friend about the news that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that we read to our kids from birth. My daughter turned two last month, and we have been reading together since she was an infant (but no, not from birth). Right now we are deep in a Maurice Sendak period, and each evening is punctuated by cries for “MAX!” (Where the Wild Things Are) or “MICKEY!” (In the Night Kitchen). At two years old, she does tend to speak in all-caps.
My friend has three grown children, several education degrees, and a seemingly endless patience for “Listen to what my daughter did!” stories. We talked about how Raina is now pairing some adjectives and nouns, and said the word “unique” after hearing it on Sesame Street the other day. If I had to list the greatest joys of parenting, witnessing the explosion of my daughter’s language and vocabulary capacity is undoubtedly number one.
Recently I saw a parenting poll that asked whether it was more exciting to see your baby’s first steps or hear their first words. First steps? Seriously? My husband and I have humanities degrees and work in publishing. He is a poet. We are – without a doubt – word people. When Raina finally took her first steps, sure, I was happy because she looked so cute toddling around. I was even happier because it meant that her knees would no longer be perpetually filthy from crawling. But in our house, we have daily, hand-to-heart exclamations over whatever new thing Raina said. (This morning, she said “Bless you, puppy!” when the dog sneezed.)
So how do you become “word people”? By reading aloud. By using lots and lots of words with your baby. The breathless joy of seeing a child learning new words can and should be for everyone. Every child should have access to books, and every parent should be reminded of the value of reading, because reading aloud takes energy and patience. It’s not the easiest thing to do with your child at the end of a long day. So I am glad that the AAP realizes that the democratization of books, reading, language and learning is something we all need to work at.
Now, for me, it’s back to MICKEY! and MAX!