By Emily Pelton
Executive Director, Voices for Georgia’s Children
When I was pregnant with my daughter, fretting over the advice in my parenting books, my mother told me, “You are making this way too complicated.” “Here’s what your grandmother told me when I told her you were on the way,” she said. “There are really just three things you need to know: sing to the baby, smile at the baby, and read to the baby.”
I liked this advice, and I have repeated it often to expectant mothers, because it simplifies things, and, better yet, it works! From our very first moments together, my daughter loved to read. Often, I could barely keep my eyes open, as she put her book in my lap again and again. Sometimes this went on until I fell asleep in her bed and my husband had to retrieve me.
As she got older, roles reversed and she began to sound things out and read to me – or to correct me, “Mommy you skipped that part!” (No shortcuts for us.) I was amazed how quickly reading transformed into sentences and writing, and even a way for my daughter to take charge of her young life.
One day, she came to me with a list, “Mommy, these are for us. These are the rules,” she announced. “What rules? Whose rules???” I asked. “Our rules,” she said. “I made them. And you and Daddy and me have to follow them. I wrote them down.”
My daughter, now 13, is an avid reader and an emerging young writer who tells people she wants to be an author someday. She will make her own choices, but I know the foundation of our childhood nightly reading ritual is part of what will let her take that pathway if she wants to follow it.
The rules below are a real document (now archived in a frame). No one asked my daughter to make them. I guess she simply thought we needed some help. They are a little hard to read, but we all still love them – and we try to follow them as best we can. And they’re a great reminder to me of why no moment spent reading with a child is ever wasted.