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Mommy's LIttlest Bookworm

As part of my mommy guilt for raising Cora
in her sister’s shadow, I worry that Cora won’t grow up
loving books as much as Maddie does because I simply haven’t
has as much time to read to her as I did to Maddie.

Brian began reading two books a night to Maddie while she was still
in my tummy. When I was only taking care of one kid at a time, I
had hours to snuggle on the couch reading kids’ books with
Madeleine, so she was in love with picture books from the newborn
stage on. As I tried to wean Maddie naturally, I began reading to
her while she nursed for nap or bedtime, eventually reading instead
of nursing, with the result being that Maddie reads several books a
day and considers her book time a vital part of her evening and nap
routine. When Cora was born, we kept a basket of new books next to
my nursing chair, and Maddie would settle into her own stuffed
chair and listen to me read while I nursed. Even now, if I need to
close the door and put Cora to sleep, I’ll come out ten
minutes later to see Maddie has climbed up on the couch, pulled a
throw around herself, and is happily browsing through her favorite

So with Maddie, I sowed seeds early on and
have been able to reap the benefits. With Cora, I’ve been
worried I haven’t sown at all and will have a meager harvest.
Cora’s listened to books her whole life – mostly while
I’m nursing and reading to Maddie – but they
haven’t been the focal point of her activity. And when it was
Maddie’s naptime, I’d tuck Cora into bed next to Maddie
and read to both of them, but Cora simply couldn’t sit still
for two books and would wriggle around distractingly until
I’d let her down to play on the floor. When Cora hit six or
seven months, I realized with alarm that I’d not been setting
aside time to deliberately read to Cora and was convinced
she’d flunk out of school, resent me, and live at home
forever. But those precious moments when Maddie was asleep were all
about getting things done, and poor Cora was often simply strapped
into the Bjorn and taken along for the laundry ride.

Once we got moved and I fought to get a bit of routine back into
our lives I began being more deliberate about reading time with
Cora, and at first despaired mightily. She didn’t seem
interested in any books and would shut them impatiently very early
into the story, prompting panicked Mommy visions of ADD and
learning disorders. I persevered, though, and eventually hit on one
book she liked. So I’d read that book first every time
we’d read together, then try to go on to another one and
expand her repertoire.

After a few days of this Cora decided she didn’t just like
I Know A Rhino; she LOVED it. So I read it over and over and
over again, struggling weakly to find ANYTHING else she might like.

Fast forward to today, and Cora’s quite the bibliophile.
She’s got a whole stack of “her” books: mostly
board books, nearly all of them memorized by the entire family. We
have a reading area in almost every room of the house, and
she’ll toddle over to the selection and start pawing through
the books.

“Do you want to read a book, Cora?” I’ll ask.
She’ll break into a huge grin, give an emphatic nod, and wait
for me to pick a few up and settle her on my lap. “How about
this one?” I’ll ask, holding one up. No response.
“This one?” Nothing. “Maybe this one?” Cora
will start to fidget restlessly. “This is a good one!”
I’ll say, but will apparently be wrong and Cora will take
matters into her own hands.

Flipping over onto her belly, Cora will slither to the floor, march
over to the books, and throw them all ruthlessly aside as she
searches for her favorites. Finally finding the one she wants,
she’ll storm back to me and hold the book up. I’ll
dutifully take it from her, at which point she’ll turn
around, presenting her backside to me and lifting her arms up. This
allows me instant access to her armpits, and I’ll obediently
pick her up correctly and settle her back on my lap. “How
about this book, Cora?” I’ll ask, and hold up the one
she just picked. Letting out a Beavis-style chuckle, Cora will
settle anticipatorily onto my lap and escape into the story.

Cora is so clear on her preferences that even Maddie can get in on
the act. She’ll see Cora lurking near the books, flinging
them restlessly while I cook, and will say, “Do you want me
to read you a book, Cora?” When Cora’s eyes light up,
Maddie digs out a guaranteed Cora hit – Brown Bear.
“Come here, I’ll read it to you,” Maddie will say
self-importantly, and head to the coffee table. With the book laid
open between them Maddie will “read” the book to Cora
(it helps that Cora’s favorite book is easily memorized by a
three-year-old!) They take turns turning pages, Cora stares
admiringly at Maddie, and peace reigns for a few minutes.

I’ve even seen signs of Cora moving to self-entertainment
with the books: a few afternoons when Maddie has been napping and
I’ve gotten a head start on dinner, I’ve wondered at
the quiet coming from the living room and headed in to investigate.
And every time I’ve found Cora in the library, a circle of
books around her, contentedly leafing through several different
books. Just like her big sister.

So it looks like college may not be out of the question yet.


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