By: Rebecca Shah
In our house there are about 15 minutes after supper and before we start the bedtime routine that are often challenging for our five-year-old and two-year-old (and, frankly, for us). The kids are tired and grumpy. It feels impossible to share and absolutely necessary to burst into tears about the smallest infraction.
One night during this 15 minutes my husband and I were in the kitchen cleaning up after supper when one kid started yelling and the other one started crying. Book time! I decided on the fly. No more “bally” (which is a game the kids invented where they roll around on our giant yoga ball and inevitably get hurt) or running around after supper. Getting calm and staying calm before bedtime is a critical success factor to sleep, and this idea seemed to solve so many problems that often occurred in that chaotic 15 minutes.
Only books after supper from now on. Immediately both kids picked up a book and started exploring. Not reading, necessarily, but exploring the books. Calmly, and with impressive concentration.
We know the importance of having books in the home and we read aloud every day, but honestly, we didn’t consider the message we were sending with this new household rule until after it was made. To us, this rule says that books are important. It says that reading is enjoyable. This “book time” allows our kids the space to explore books independently without an adult saying what’s right and what’s wrong. The time is for them to discover and, we hope, someday to get hooked on a good book.
As a BookSpring Board Member, I am often thinking about how early literacy affects the entire community and what BookSpring can do as an organization to improve it. Our new, dedicated “book time” after supper is a good reminder that it’s the small, simple steps that parents can make at home that can make the most difference in the lives of kids.
Now during “book time” our five-year-old will use the illustrations and memory of her favorite books to retell them to her brother, and our two-year-old will make up stories as he turns the pages (and sometimes still hits his sister – now with a book…). They explore books while sitting in boxes. They explore books both dressed as princesses. Some nights they explore one book and some nights many, and some nights there’s still yelling and crying. But now they’re starting to get into a routine and know that it’s “book time” after supper.