In my constant quest to be a Good Parent, I have read to my girls since they were about 3 months old. It began as the start of the slow process of attempting to develop a bedtime routine, but bled out into day-to-day attempts at keeping them entertained and stimulated. They’re two years old now and I can’t decide if it’s working.
If I give my girls a book each (I’ve tried the sharing thing; it does NOT work!) then at least one of them will sit and look through it, sometimes with a great deal of interest. If I attempt to actually sit and read with them, I end up feeling irritated because it never ends how I want it to! Such a control freak!
It begins with me seating them either side of me and enthusiastically telling them we’re going to read a book. Examples have included The Gruffalo, several Roald Dahl classics, Peter Rabbit, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and That’s Not my Bloody Pony. See, I really do try!
I begin the first page in a hopeful manner; I can pretty much hold their attention during that first page and it feels awesome. Always a bit of a show-off as a child, I even do different voices and accents, and I make sure I emphasise all the different inflections in the text. I use those crazy yet endearing CBeebies presenters as my muse. If they can hold my daughters’ attention for 10 whole minutes then so can I!
By page 2, they’re no longer attempting to follow what I’m saying and begin grabbing the book from my hands and turning the pages before I’ve had time to read more than about two words. I’m at least given the impression that they’re vaguely interested in the physical book itself.
By page 5 (and remember, we’re talking about books that only have a few giant font words per page most of the time!), they’re clambering all over me, screaming in my ears and repeatedly asking for Peppa Pig to go on the TV. By page 6, the book is on the floor and Peppa Pig is on.
At bedtime, I force them to listen to me by plugging their mouths with bottles of milk. If I’m lucky, I can read for about five minutes before the milk is gone and the girls are jumping up and down in their cots, laughing and screaming so loudly that I actually can’t hear myself reading the words anymore.
My current attempt, The Story Giant by Brian Patten and illustrated by Chris Riddell is fantastic. It centres around a giant who has lived in a magical dreamworld since the dawn of time. He knows all the stories ever said or written, and at night he weaves children from across the world into his magical world, where he shares stories with them. In return, the children share their own stories, and each is enraptured with the tales they hear. The stories deal with mature subjects including death, and I’m really enjoying reading it. Unfortunately, it’s taken months to get through it because I only get a page or two read each night. I would make a really terrible story giant; the kids I weaved into my magical land would just ignore me and run riot round my magical castle!
I have no idea if anything I’ve said is normal. My worry is that their lack of attention span in relation to me reading to them is a direct consequence of the fact they’re twins. I can’t sit with one of them on my lap and lovingly focus on that one child while they snuggle into me, enraptured by my fascinating tale. I have a rocking chair inbetween the two cots and it just about fits me in it, let alone two children as well!
I have always loved reading, and whilst I struggle to fit reading into my hectic lifestyle, it will always be one of my passions. I hope I can instill the same level of passion into my girls before it’s too late. The good thing is that as well as being a control freak, I am also supremely stubborn, so I’ll keep trying until I’ve cracked this nut… Just allow me a few frustrated “AHHHH”‘s in the meantime!