Reading and Why it Matters

By Haylee Hackenberg

I must admit – three children in, and I am not as firmly convicted in my parenting choices as I was in the early days of my mothering. I still bed share and feed on demand, but it’s more from a “this is what works for us” space, than the “if you dare suggest any other way, I will provide you with a detailed PowerPoint presentation on why I’m right” space I was in with my first two kids. One area I am still wildly passionate about, though, is the importance of reading to babies and children. 

It might sound trite but reading changes lives. It opens worlds. It builds dreams and creates dreamers. And let’s be honest, with a veritable universe of screen choices for our kids, any way you can sneak in some reading time is a win. 

But the how? That’s the tricky part, yeah? Take babies for example. My youngest is 20 months and firmly in her “won’t let you get through an entire book” era. She toddles off to the bookshelf and returns with great enthusiasm, but about three quarters of the way through, she slams it shut with gusto and toddles off to grab another. I almost expect her to shout, “next!”. My husband was very excited to finally learn the end of the Julia Donaldson classic, Stick Man, when we watched the TV adaptation at Christmas. It doesn’t matter though, it’s not really about the story, per se. For babies and toddlers, it’s about creating a warm, inviting experience and linking it with a book. It’s also for pointing out ducks. On repeat. 

It might sound trite but reading changes lives. It opens worlds. It builds dreams and creates dreamers.

The middle kid is in the early stages of learning to read independently. He loves a “chapter book” but isn’t really quite there yet. Lucky for him, there are so many fantastic choices for graphic novels that double as early readers to help him build confidence whilst also ticking the “cool” box. Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey is genuinely hilarious as a “you read some, I read some” experience.

The oldest kid is a total bookworm, and watching her journey into books I loved as a kid is SUCH a joy. 

I know this will sound sanctimonious but what has really worked for us is modelling reading. The nature of our busy lives means I often choose audiobooks or e-books for myself, but I’ve made a conscious effort to join miss 9 in her reading time most nights with a proper page turner. It’s not always possible, but it sure is lovely when it happens. 

The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. Neil Gaiman

If you’re looking for a fabulous resource, Raising Readers by Megan Daley is incredibly helpful. Of course, like all things in parenting, I acknowledge that it’s not always that simple. I highly recommend Sally Rippin’s Wild Things (How We Learn to Read and What Can Happen if We Don’t).

Mother of three, shameless book collector and children’s author based in Brisbane, Haylee is passionate about embedding a love of literature in children. Her debut book – Daisy and Bear and the Very Ordinary Day was published in April 2021 by Red Paper Kite. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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