Dear Natalie: 15 Months


Dear Natalie,

It warms my heart to see what a reader you’re becoming. It hasn’t always been this way, but we’ve worked really, really hard since almost the very first day to encourage your love of books.

I won’t lie, though — the day we retire “The Going to Bed Book,” I might set that book on fire. By my count we’ve read it to you about 350 times, and that is neither a joke nor an exaggeration.

But I digress.

You love books, and they’re every where in our house. Sometimes I suspect you like them so much because you’ve figured out how to make a pile and stand on it, but most of the time you just like to look at them. Sometimes you sit quietly and “read” them to yourself, not caring a bit if the book is upside down or sideways. Other times you bring the books to us, then clamber into our laps and have us read them to you. Initially you only sat for a moment before reaching out and FLIP-FLIP-FLIP-ing to the end of the book, then launching out of my lap and dashing away. You still do that, but more often than not you follow along for the whole book, pressing your finger to the page in a silent request for us to name whatever you’re pointing at.

Your favorite book to do this with is a bath time book with one page full of illustrations of bath toys. I feel like I’m taking a bizarre kind of intelligence test as you point, rapid-fire, to the toys and have me name them: DUCK-BOAT-HIPPO-BOAT-BLOCK-DUCK-HIPPO-AHHH! And then you either say, “DA!” (duck) or, “BA-BA!” (everything that isn’t a duck).

One of your favorite books is about a lonely hippo who invites all his hippo friends to a wild and crazy party, a book appropriately titled “Hippos Go Berserk.” The book counts the hippos from one to nine, and then you turn to the next page where the hippo bacchanalia is depicted and we see the words in bold and all capital letters, “ALL THE HIPPOS GO BERSERK!” We’ve been reading this book to you for almost a year now, and every time we get to that page I grab your arms and wave them around like a fork stuck in the garbage disposal.

And now, after a year, you know what’s coming. You start to smile at seven hippos, your smile splits into a grin at eight hippos, and at the sight of nine hippos going to work, you can’t contain yourself any longer. You grab MY hands and flap them up and down, because hippos going berserk are the funniest thing you’ve ever seen.

There are so many things I want for you, but fostering a love of reading is pretty much tops on the list. I love that you love to read, and I’ll do everything I can to keep it fun and engaging for you.

Just let me know whenever you’re ready to retire “The Going to Bed Book,” and then get ready to party. Because those hippos got nothin’ on your mama when that day comes.

Love always,

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