When our son was a baby, my husband, Mark, worked from an office at home. Mark would sometimes put Aaron in the infant backpack and take him out–to get breakfast, to run an errand or simply for a walk around the block. Wherever they went, Mark would talk with Aaron; not “baby talk” but a real conversation about sports, the weather or the New York Times headline news. Aaron didn’t respond, of course, but he did listen intently to every word. As Aaron and his sister grew up, their teachers would consistently remark on the strength of their vocabulary and their wonderful conversational skills. These are the gifts they received from those chatty walks with their father, and, of course, from the regular reading he and I did with them. After all, studies have repeatedly shown that reading to children is the single most important thing to insure a child’s success in school.
I’m currently reading a wonderful new book called “The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared” by Alice Ozma. It describes a pact the author and her dad made that led to the two of them reading together for 3,218 nights in a row–almost nine years without missing a single night! Now that’s a record we should all hope to achieve and beat with our children. Some delightful books have been published recently that are sure to make father-child reading time a playful, joyful, enchanting and even thought-provoking experience. Check these out:
“Hide and Squeak” by Heather Vogel Frederick. A little mouse does his best to hide from Dad as bedtime approaches. However, no matter how sneaky baby mouse is, Dad chases, cajoles, catches, finds, snuggles and finally tucks baby into bed. The charming, simple rhyme combines with the endearing pen, ink and acrylic illustrations for a lovely bedtime book that’s sure to become a nighttime reading tradition. (Ages 3-6.)
“Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” by Mo Willems. Dad bravely takes his toddler, Trixie, to the laundromat. There Dad, unknowingly and unfortunately, puts Trixie’s most important comfort object–Knuffle Bunny–into the washer and leaves it. As anyone who has been in a similar situation can attest, things will not be OK until Knuffle Bunny is found. The very simple story is accompanied by cartoon drawings overlaid on top of beautiful photographs of Brooklyn, N.Y. This is the first of three “Knuffle Bunny” books. (Ages 2-7.)
“Mitchell’s License” by Hallie Durand. Mitchell will not, under any circumstances, go to bed without a great deal of resistance. When his father gives him a license to drive to bed, bedtime suddenly becomes an entirely new experience. This laugh-out-loud story may have some calamitous results as kids realize their dads might make some pretty fine automobiles. (Ages 4-8.)