Reading to a newborn: Harder than I thought but Totally Worth It
My husband and I had our first child in early November. Running Bookroo has only cemented our passion for and commitment to reading, so we knew that reading would be a big part of our little munchkin’s life, even from the early days. With all the research out there about the benefits of reading to children from birth, we knew we didn’t want to miss out on any of it! We have a friend who has a goal to read 10,000 books this calendar year to their 1 year old (and are on track to do so!), and I at least thought “Oh, we should do that too when baby F is born!” If you’re doing the math, that’s about 27 books a day.
But as you may know, birth can be semi-traumatic. New motherhood and fatherhood is more overwhelming and tiring than we might have envisioned in our heads. As we experienced the roller coaster that was new parenthood with the tiny blocks of sleep, overwhelming obsession with and love for our new baby, struggles to master breastfeeding, bursts of tears (just mine and baby’s–dad escaped this one!) and cherished snuggles, reading took a back burner. Our grandiose plans to bring books to the hospital to read to him his very first day were forgotten, and it was grandma who pulled out his first book when we arrived home from the hospital Saturday afternoon after a Wednesday morning birth. He snuggled through it, but (as might be expected) didn’t pay it any attention. We made it through just 2 books that day.
Being home from the hospital, we tried to establish a pattern of reading, but those first couple days, he really had zero interest. We’d get through two or three books in a sitting before he began and to fuss. It was tempting to say, “He has no idea what’s going on, and doesn’t enjoy it. Let’s just hold off and revisit reading when he can enjoy it.” But we run Bookroo. We’ve read and written countless blog posts about the benefits of reading. We couldn’t just STOP reading to our baby. So we kept at it. By being consistent in reading him a few stories everyday, his attention span grew faster than even we could have imagined. He quickly began looking at the books we were reading. He engaged with them and clearly preferred some books to others.
At just over a month old, we were able to read 15 books a day with baby F. It’s become a cherished part of our morning routine, when we sit together and snuggle (or sway on knees!). At a month old, he doesn’t smile reactively yet, or really play. There are so few things that I feel like we can do with him that are “fun,” and reading gives us that. It gives me validation as a new mom, that at the end of the day I’ve accomplished something. So few things as a new mom fit my preference for checklists, but each day this is something I can set a goal for and mark off my list and it gives me a sense of peace and accomplishment.
To keep the logistics of our goal running smoothly, we’ve been using our Bookroo reading app to track our progress so that my husband and I can both track the books we read baby F in the same place and have access to our record everywhere. And to keep our selections varied and fresh, we move books to a different shelf after we’ve read them to force ourselves to cycle through a variety of books. It’s a system that works well for us.
We’ve adjusted our expectations. 27 books a day isn’t realistic for us right now, so we’ve set a different goal. Making that switch has helped me feel accomplished and motivated rather than discouraged and stressed. New parenthood (and parenthood in general) is an emotional rollercoaster, and needs and priorities are different for each family, but for us setting a daily reading goal and spending that one-on-one time together is a precious bonding opportunity and peaceful highlight of our day. To parents new and more established, don’t give up. Set a reading goal that fits the needs and priorities of your family. You’re doing better than you think you are!
Tell us what reading goals you’ve set with your family this year in the comments below! We’d LOVE to hear them!