Essay

Why I Used To Wake Up At 5 a.m. To Read To My Daughter

Nirbhay Kanoria

November 2, 2017

Many moons ago, when my wife got pregnant, I started wondering how I would be as a father. While I want to say I mostly thought about the heavy-duty stuff – what values would I instill in my child; what my parenting philosophy would be, and so on- what truly concerned me was what the hell would I do with a kid all day! Then one day it struck me, I could read to it! After all, it is the one thing I’ve always loved and been passionate about (hence The Curious Reader, but more on that here).

My daughter was born towards the end of August, and by the end of September, when she was barely a month old, I had chosen the first book I would read to her: a cute, 6-page, lift-the-flap book called “Where is Baby’s Belly Button?”. Each page of the flap book revealed the baby’s eyes, mouth, feet, hands, and, of course, the eponymous belly button. My daughter (let’s just call her D) loved it (or so I was convinced). The colours were bright, the artwork adorable, and she could (of course, I had a wunderkind) swat at the pages.

From then on, there was no stopping me, D and I went through 100 First Words, Animals, and of course, every night before she slept, the classic (for a reason) Good Night Moon”. It became, and still is, our ‘thing’. I would wake up at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. to read to, and with her.

According to Dr. Mary Adams, Medical Director at Reach Out & Read, “reading a book to your newborn is a one-on-one activity that you can really turn into a special time with your baby … it exposes the baby to the sound of your voice, which is soothing for him”. I found this especially true, as till date I am the first person D turns to when she wants a book read, and she is the one person I cannot stop buying books for.

At a regular visit to her paediatrician, I asked if reading makes any difference to them at such a young age. The doctor sweetly, but condescendingly, dismissed it telling me I could if I’d like, but I’m sure what he really meant was what was I thinking. After that, there were times when I questioned myself – did D really enjoy this? Was I just doing this because it gave me something to do with her? Was I becoming one of those parents who forced his hobbies on his child? But something told me to persevere. When D was about 6 months old, on being asked, she correctly pointed out her mother’s eyes. I was totally convinced that it all went back to Where is Baby’s Belly Button?, and she had learnt to identify eyes at the ripe old age of 1 month! I felt vindicated.

According to a study at the University of California, Santa Cruz, reading aloud to a new-born introduces him to an extensive vocabulary at an early age, and the earlier he acquires language the more likely he is to master it. Interestingly, through his study, Dominic Massaro stresses the importance of reading picture books and not just any books to infants. He goes on to emphasise that reading improves a child’s vocabulary more than just talking to him. My personal experience bears this out because D is constantly praised for vocabulary in school.

D is now over three. Our love for books and stories has evolved into creating our own worlds; making up fictional characters like a pair of rabbit friends called “Bitty” and “Rabby” and getting lost in our imaginative world with other friends like “Mr. Lion” (who needs some cheering up) and “Ms. Snail” (who is always looking for leaves to feed her kids). Reading has bridged the age gap between us; when we are lost in our books, we aren’t father and daughter, but just two explorers, setting off on our next literary adventure together.

 

Check out the list of books Nirbhay and his daughter have loved and pick up one for your child.

What about you? Do you read to your child? What are some of your child’s favourites? Share with us in the comments.

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Nirbhay Kanoria

Nirbhay Kanoria

As a young boy, Nirbhay had the annoying habit of waking up at 5 a.m. Since television was a big no-no, he had no choice but to read to entertain himself and that is how his love affair with books began. A true-blue Piscean, books paved the path to his fantasy worlds- worlds he’d often rather stay in.