I didn't have a lot of preconceived dreams about what being a mother would be like before having kids, but I had one very strong one! I dreamt of reading to my kids. I had all kinds of fantasies about how we'd pick out a huge pile of library books and read them all, and go back the next day and get more, and how I'd have to negotiate about how many bedtime stories I'd read, all the while being secretly thrilled they wanted more than there was time to read. Well---like most parenting fantasies, this one never came to pass. I read a fair amount to the boys, but it was never as big a part of their lives as I'd wished, and neither of them read much for pleasure. And Janey---reading to Janey---well, it's different than what I pictured. But I'm starting to realize it still can be a great way for us to connect.
The first thing that has to happen with Janey and reading is that she has to love the book. It's very hard to figure out what books she is going to love. Her choices seem pretty random to me---a Wo Wo Wubsey book about tails? A book about a dog encountering different sounds? A random clothes catalog? I can pick out a book I'm sure is going to be something she'd like, and she firmly closes it the minute I open it. I have to go with what she likes, for whatever reason. Right now, the book she's picked is a book of nursery rhymes, with very simple versions of the rhymes and with embossed pages. (here is is, if you are interested)
Once we have the book, there's the reading. But it's never a straightforward, read from beginning to end, read all the words reading. Instead, after I read a few words, Janey grabs the book and closes it. Then, if she really likes the book, she re-opens it, finds the part she likes and hands it back to me, saying something like "Humpty Dumpty!" which means I am to re-read that part. I do, and often she points to it again. I read it again. This can go on for 10 or 15 rounds. After a while, before I go insane, I quickly sneak in another rhyme. That usually causes the book to get grabbed and shut. But then, sometimes, when she reopens it, it's to request the rhyme I snuck in. It has to be her idea. And so we go on, sometimes for a long time. We might only read 4 or 5 of the rhymes total, but we read the heck out of the ones she likes, and she is delighted. She loves hearing them, and doesn't get bored.
I used to get very frustrated by this type of reading. I felt like all we were doing was sort of a form of echolalia via my reading---I was doing the echolalia for Janey. But I've tried to get a new attitude about reading. The point, with Janey, isn't really to read a book. It's to interact, and when we do our reading routine, we are interacting. Janey is communicating what she wants to hear, I am spending time with her doing something we both enjoy, she is very possibly connecting the words I often put my finger under as I read with the sounds---she might be learning to read. And she is happy. She is getting joy out of a book, and isn't that the point? I have had to adjust my thinking about books quite a bit. Books can be like toys, and in fact Janey is much more likely to interact with a book than with a traditional toy. Wasn't that my dream, in a way?
My mental list of dreams for Janey is not long. I hope she is happy in life, and safe, and loved. But I will admit in that list is a strong hope she will learn to read well enough to read on her own, to enjoy reading. She can read a little---we have seen that despite what I think is her desire for us to not know she can. But if I ever see her sit down with a book and read it to herself, well, that will be a top ten lifetime moment for sure.