When I was pregnant with my oldest, I desperately wanted to decorate her room with a Dr Seuss theme, but since this was in the days before Dr Seuss Knows A Lot About That, there were a grand total of zero wall or bed or floor decorations in Seuss themes. There were plenty of tutorials for drawing your own on the wall, but since when it comes to art, I am all thumbs, so we had to choose a different theme. I was bummed because I wanted my daughter to be surrounded with as many books and literary allusions as possible from the earliest days.
Then I read a study that demonstrated how when fetuses are read The Cat in the Hat in the womb, they will be calmed when they hear it after birth. Awesome, I thought. My daughter will be hooked on the classics before she is even born! So the next morning I went to Borders, picked up a copy of the book, and dutifully sat down for a few nights in a row, reading it to my expanding belly. However, the funny thing is, The Cat in the Hat isn’t really a fun book to read to a belly. There are no sentimental themes, and I felt silly doing funny voices for a baby in utero. So this tradition quickly faded out.
But then after Magoo (my daughter) was born, I got a copy of Oh the Places You’ll Go. Every day for months on end, I would lay out a quilt on her nursery floor, and we would both lay on our backs. I would hold the book over our head, and I would read the text to my growing baby.
I was struggling emotionally during these days. I wasn’t quite sure how to be a mom. I wasn’t quite sure how to put my days of workaholism behind me. I wasn’t sure how to climb out of the pit of depression I was falling into. But I knew how to do this. I knew how to read to her. I knew reading was important. And as such, during these times I felt like a mom. A good mom.
Obviously the words meant nothing to her, and the pictures may have been too far away for her to really make anything of them, but she would lie, staring up at the pages for the entire duration of the book and sometimes for two readings.
I don’t think she will ever remember those days with the two of us tucked away in our little corner of the world, me reading about the miraculous journeys life will take her through, and her gazing up intently. They are my fondest memories of her infancy.
But Oh the Places You’ll Go doesn’t hold a lot of excitement for a baby who is becoming more mobile. The pages contain quite a few words and there aren’t a whole lot of fun sounding phrases. So we moved on.
It was around nine months old that Magoo found her first favorite book – Dr Suess’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book, and I learned how many versions of a single book you can go through when it is beloved by an infant. The first version we had was the standard hard cover, paper book. That is my favorite because it has the complete words, but that book was destroyed in a very short amount of time. Next I bought the board book version. This one has abbreviated text, but I thought it was worth it because the board book would last me forever. Well, it didn’t last me forever, but it did last a solid few months, and even years later, I can recite that book probably word for word. “Camel on the ceiling…c,c,c.” We are now on our fourth copy. If any book is monotonous, it is that one, but she loved it dearly. I specifically remember one Sunday morning before church. She toddled over to where we kept the books, grabbed it, and toddled back to me, demanding that I read it no less than three times.
One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish was our next book. I purchased that one for potty training. I didn’t remember anything about the book from my younger days, but I needed something to keep a potty training toddler occupied, and it seemed long enough that it would do the job. Unfortunately, it did not do the job, because it is now years later, and I still don’t know if I have ever finished reading the book a single time. I’ve yet to have one kid who wanted anything to do with that book.
So we moved on to Green Eggs and Ham. This was about the time that Magoo was beginning to read BOB books and other early readers, and I thought she might enjoy something a little more exciting. And boy did she! She loved reading that book, but even more so, she loved it when I read that book. I do it well, if I say so myself. I have quite the interesting voices for Sam I Am and his not so friendly friend.
And that brings us to the first Christmas that Magoo really knew what was going on. I was so excited to record all of the Christmas television programs I had watched as a child, but despite all the claymation glory, Magoo’s favorite was How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My daughter has taste! I did what seemed best and ran to the store to get the book the movie was based on.
Magoo had a lot of firsts with Dr Seuss. One of her first movie theater movies was The Lorax. One of her first live performances was Seussical Junior. But my younger two were never huge Seuss fans. That i,s until I pulled out our old copy of Oh the Thinks You Can Think and Mr Brown Can Moo Can You a few weeks ago, and now they are hooked as well. I love how my two year old starts jumping up and down screaming “Mr Brown, Mr Brown”, and my one year old loves looking through the pictures of The Thinks.
I write about all of this because yesterday was Theodore Geisel’s birthday, and today is Read Across America day.
There are so many activities mothers participate in with their children that make a life long impact. Learning about nature, growing food together, exploring new lands or new areas of your home town, serving others, laughing, hugging, clowning around. In so many ways we impact our children for the better.
But we also live busy lives. Sometimes it’s remarkable to me just how busy we can be when we sometimes barely leave our homes. And I think sometimes what gets left behind is reading. It’s easy to put off until tomorrow. It’s easy to want to just get through bed time quickly or to be so busy that we don’t want to sit down for ten minutes and read.
But it is also such an important activity. Through reading, children learn about the sounds that make up our language. They develop print recognition. They learn how books work. They slowly start to understand that the words the parent says are dictated by the funny shapes on the page called letters. They come across new words. They experience new worlds. They learn about diversity. They learn that reading is important to you, and by far most importantly, they do it all while snuggled in the arms of the people they love the most.
So during this month of March, I urge you to make a vow to read perhaps a couple more minutes a day with your child than you normally would. Create some new memories. All too soon, they will be pushing you away to go read on their own or to go spend some time behind the closed doors of their bedrooms. Now, while the time and the interest is there, create some memories. You will thank yourself in the long term.
“So be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” – Dr Seuss, Oh the Places You’ll Go
About Amanda Knapp
Amanda Knapp is a stay at home mom to her three little girls. She writes about life and mothering on her blog, Indisposable Mama.
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