Monday, 20 May, 2019


Crawlers @Your Library

Tracy Kampa, Children’s Library


Child development experts, librarians, and parents everywhere agree: reading to children, starting from birth, is important. Cuddling with a snuggly newborn and reading to them is not only wildly good for both reader and listener, but it’s a pretty easy thing to do. Babies are a captive audience; they stay where you put them, and they are hard-wired to enjoy the sound of your voice. One day, though, out of the blue, they are moving on their own. Panic! All they want to do is move. Surely, they will no longer sit still for daily book time. Yet, the crawling age is one of the most important times to instill a love of books. (More about that later.) So, how do you do it? How can you read to someone who just won’t sit still? I’m here to tell you that this impossible dream is, indeed, within your grasp.

Look, first, for the low hanging fruit. There are times during the day when your crawler is, quite literally, tied down. Always have books ready when they are strapped into their car seat. Resist the urge to hand them your cell phone, rather, have a handful of board books ready for both reading and chewing. (They will eventually destroy them, but they will get lots of reading from them first!) Bringing a few books along in the stroller and a few for the shopping cart will provide both distraction and conversation starters for you and your child. If they are not ravenously hungry, some crawlers enjoy looking at a book in their high chair while you finish scooping up lunch. Bedtime and naptime, of course, are also great times to break out the books. The point is, surround them with books, wherever they might find themselves. They need to see books as a part of your family’s culture. You read.

When they are not tied down, there are still many opportunities during the day to read with your crawlers. Lay down on the floor and surround yourself with books. They will spend many, many happy minutes crawling to you to hear bits and pieces of a story, and then crawling away to explore. It’s okay if they don’t hear the beginning, middle, and end. (Board books are a little light on plot, anyway.) They hear your voice, and your words, and they see that reading is obviously quite important to you, which makes it important to them, too. Make certain that they find books wherever they may be. Put a basket of their books in the bathroom, in their bedroom, and in the living room. It will not be long before you discover that your baby is quiet not because they have got into something, but because they have found a stash of books.

I’m also going to encourage the seemingly impossible. Try to let your child see YOU reading. Try to find some time when you can just sit down, in their company, and open a book, a magazine, a newspaper, a warranty pamphlet, or the coupon flyer. The subject doesn’t matter, nor does the length of time you spend reading. What matters is that your baby sees that reading is important enough of an activity that you do it when you can.  (I once had a patron tell me that when her babies were little she loved books by Nicholas Sparks. The relatively predictable plot permitted her to easily pick up where she left off, and, she said with a grin, it allowed her to exit her children’s toddlerhood still believing she was a reader.)

So, now the big question. Why is reading so important during the crawling months?  Because it is during this period of development that children start discerning what is important to you. Babies are born with an intense survival instinct. When they are tiny, though, it is all about what’s being done to them and for them. As they age, they look to the adults in their lives and imitate what they see. It is a wonder of development; it is also the reason why they covet the remote, your car keys, and your phone. Because you use them, they must need them, too! So take this stage of child development and use it to your advantage. Make sure that your crawler knows that books are important to you, and to your family. You will be well on your way to encouraging a lifelong love of reading.