When I was pregnant, in a rush of enthusiasm, I bought a book of beautifully illustrated fairy tales. Encouraged by my weekly baby updates from various sources (‘your baby can now hear sounds’, ‘your baby can now recognise your voice’), my husband and I read to the developing Scrip. A story a night for a while. And we were rewarded with the occasional kick or turn.
Having always been an avid reader myself with fond memories of bedtime stories, I was looking forward to following this by reading aloud to my new baby. In my idealised world, we’d be curled up on the sofa together, me narrating complete with funny voices, her delighted and her attention rapt.
Unfortunately, as with so many things, the reality hasn’t actually turned out that way. In the first few months I found nursery rhymes and songs were much more popular with the fledgling Scrip. Then, when she was ready to sit rather than slump in my lap, I tried again. But she was much more interested in grabbing the book than letting me read it. Each time I gently prised it from her paws and tried to carry on, unsuccessfully. This progressed to picking it up and chewing it. I tried cloth books, plastic books and board books. It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to play, I just wanted to introduce her to the joys of reading too.
A story didn’t sit naturally with our bedtime routine, either. I started worrying – what if she didn’t take to reading? What if she was more interested in moving around than sitting quietly and concentrating? It wasn’t an age thing – friends’ babies seemed to enjoy being read to so much more (‘books are Alfie’s favourite toys’)…
But then, when we were away and Scrip was a little under the weather and a bit restless, we tried again. My husband balanced her on his knee and picked up a book. Scrip promptly stuck her thumb in her mouth. He started reading. She sat still and looked from the book to him, and seemed interested. He went through our collection of books a couple of times, varying voices each time. And she enjoyed it – it made her calm and content.
That made me realise something obvious that I should have thought of before – it just needs to be the right time. There’s no point taking her away from her rolling and noisy toys. Much more sensible to do it when she’s quieter – or a little bit sleepy. When she’s more boisterous I’ll give her books to play with but she will obviously more interested in chewing than listening. And I mustn’t worry if she doesn’t take to being read to before a certain age – there’s no time limit. There will be a storytime – hopefully many in years to come – but they’ll be at the right time for her.