For the first year of my baby’s life, I floundered in a sea of anxiety. How do I look after someone so precious? What’s the best way to introduce the world to this new, perfect little human being?
Wah! as Tashi would say.
I turned to what I love best. I read to him. We read everywhere – in bed, at shopping centres, in parks, on the toilet. I always packed a book along with bottles, and later, with picnics, because you never knew when there’d be an awkward moment in real life.
Reading stories aloud to your child is one of the most important gifts you can offer. And it can be such a huge pleasure for you!
When choosing storybooks, pick out something that appeals to you, too. If you like dogs, find the doggy books. If you feel affection for the comfortable face of the straw-hatted wombat on the cover, pick that one. Trust your instincts. Like osmosis, your interest and excitement in the story gets passed back and forth between you. Picture books can be like poems – deep and ever-giving. Even after the twenty-third time…
I found reading aloud to be one of the greatest comforts. Even when you’re exhausted, the words are there – you don’t have to struggle to find them, you can use those of the author, who has spent months or years trying to choose just the right ones. You get to snuggle close, interrupt the story to compare experiences, turn the lovely pages, ask questions about pictures, talk about feelings, discuss all the important and intimate aspects of being alive and part of the human race. Or you can just be silently awed together, your hearts pounding as you lift off to the far away place.
The child learns to associate the deep pleasure of sharing and discovery with stories – and the first step in a reading life has begun.
Teacher Librarians know all about it. My mother was one, and I happened to be a pupil at her primary school. When she read aloud to her class, you could hear a pin drop. And she always left us in a state of agonised suspense, so eager to know what happened next that we fought to borrow the book and find out ourselves.
Neil Gaiman calls fiction ‘a gateway drug to reading’. A child learns to read with desperate speed because they must know right now how their beloved character will get out of trouble. And so reading stories becomes an effortless lesson in empathy.
Even as children enter the later years of primary school, many will still love being read to. So why not do it? And even with independent readers, you can keep sharing books if you read them too. So many insights can be discussed and developed through book talk. It’s a beautiful way to get to know your child deeply, to both share and impart your values, and invite other people’s experience and wisdom into your world.
Anna Fienberg and her mother Barbara created Tashi, a loveable character whose adventures fill over 30 books, continuing to delight children all around the world. Partnering with illustrator Kim Gamble they created a magical world for newly independent readers. To celebrate 25 years since the first publication of Tashi Anna has collaborated with Arielle and Greer Gamble, Kim’s daughters, to create 3 brand new books:
- 1 2 3: My First Tashi
- Colours: My First Tashi
- Alphabetical Tashi.