“Read it Mom, READ IT!” Alice and Henry screech, anxiously bouncing up and down on the couch, fleeces in-hand. The grey light of dawn sleepily seeps through the wall of windows framing the quiet lake, the still row of red pines, the tranquil beach strewn with the remnants of yesterday’s summer fun. I shuffle into the kitchen, fumbling for the coffeemaker as my housecoat trails on the floor. Blake slumbers on blissfully unaware.
Soon, I am gulping the freshly brewed coffee and am pulled to the present.
“MOMMMMMMMMM! We’re WAITING! PLEASE READ IT!” Henry and Alice persist. I collapse onto the couch and am immediately framed by two small bodies, snuggled in tight at each side. Ada jumps up beside us, curling into a ball as close as she possible can get to our mass of bodies. “Can I come in?” requests Henry, nudging my arm. I reach around them, my arms stretched across their shoulders holding open their requested book wide. Two chubby cheeks rest against my chest. My mug sits alone on the coffee table, steam rising. I begin to read.
I admit, I am a nerd. The nerdiest of nerds. My passion for reading has always been a focal part of my life. I cannot actually recall a time throughout my childhood, adolescence and adulthood where I lost my love of reading. Encouraged by my equally bookworm-ish Mom, my childhood was full of reading opportunities: regular trips to the public library, snuggles reading bedtime stories in my parent’s bed, losing myself for hours poring through stacks of picture books before I could even comprehend the words on the page.
As I grew older, I began to devour chapter books with a voracious appetite. I recall quite clearly as child being put to bed, then listening carefully for the sound of my parents’ footsteps heading down the stairs before I would snap on my bedroom light, pull out a Roald Dahl novel from under my pillow, then consume chapter after chapter, well into the night. Cheekily, while I read, I would always keep a hand on my light switch, listening with one ear for any indication of my parents’ bedtime plans. Occasionally, I remember reading at my bedroom window keeping an eye intermittently on the light in my dad’s workshop, watching for the light to return to darkness, indicating his imminent return to the house. Looking back, I now realize that often I would be reading until almost 11pm each night!
By the time I was a teen, my part-time job wasn’t at Tim Horton’s, but at the local library. Rushing to reshelve the orphaned books, I would then hide between the stacks to read. In high school, while Blake was running amok, cutting classes and getting in all sorts of trouble, I was the nerdiest of nerds. I ran track, played clarinet in band, went to leadership conferences, ran our student government, participated in every sport possible and studied, studied, studied. Embarrassingly, I would even voluntarily go to the school library on snow days when the buses were cancelled.
Throughout my university days, I grew to love the serenity of campus libraries and was comforted by the solitude when studying the intricacies of organic chemistry bathed in the light bending through the grand stained glass windows of the centuries-old limestone buildings. Grinding through a highly academic science degree meant that my time was largely spent at the library rather than the clubs.
Fast forward to medical school, I met Blake while he completed a degree in Civil Engineering, an even more nerdy domain of study than medicine. He proposed, I agreed and life as we now know it began.
As a parent, one of the biggest joys is being able to share parts of yourself with your children. For me, my passion for reading has flowed easily into our day-to-day lives with Henry and Alice. Without trying or intentionally planning it, books soon became an integrated part of Henry and Alice’s existence apparent in the symmetry of our daily routine – always starting and ending with reading.
As babies, trips to the public library were a reprieve from the monotony of home. As toddlers, story time on Wednesday mornings became a sacred opportunity for our fellow-parent social group to exchange war stories of raising ‘threenagers’, while Henry climbed the shelves and Alice shredded picture book pages with a placid, innocent expression on her face.
These days, it is rare for a week to go by without a trip to the library and at least 30 titles being checked-out and lugged home. Blake teases me regularly that I bring half the library home each time! In our house, there aren’t screens readily available, but books are scattered in every room. This has bred a love of reading for both of our kids. It isn’t a rare occurrence where Alice, at three years old, will wander to the couch and read to herself for half an hour.
Throughout this past summer, on average, we would spend at least two hours a day of reading! Reading has been an integral way for our kids to self-regulate themselves. They often reach for a book when in need for some down-time. Of course, our kids are as energetic as the next three and four year-old, however what I have noticed over the years of reading, is that they are easily settled with a book. This summer, I also transitioned Henry to reading chapter books. At four and a half, I wasn’t sure how Henry would do without the visual stimulation of picture books. We started out with classic novels like ‘Pippy Longstocking’ and ‘The Little House in the Big Woods’ and shockingly, he would lie absolutely still while I read chapter after chapter. In our fast-paced, screen-obsessed culture, it was quite amazing to see his attention span grow and to watch him become enthralled with the story, using only his imagination to create the images within his mind. As the nerdy Mom that I am, I couldn’t have been more proud and excited to being this new chapter in our reading journey!
Of course, like any parent, we do let our kids have screen time. To be truthful, on road trips and cross-country flights, they watch Netflix until their brains liquify. At home, they do get the occasional show, but to be honest, because the iPad isn’t visible and we don’t have a TV, our kids tend to reach for their LEGOs, stuffies, books and other toys to initiate imaginary play. And although Blake teases us for being a family of nerds, I’ll take our nerdy status any day over trying to parent moody, brain-mushed, post-screen toddlers. As my Mom says, the thing that is the hardest in the short-term, is usually the best in the long-run.
So, here are a few tips for creating nerdy, bookworm kids from a Super Nerd: