For the past year or so, I have taken tremendous pride in my daughter's passion for books.
You've heard about it. My friends and family know all about it. Our local librarian has practically become a family member. Complete strangers at Barnes & Noble are all over it.
I love that she has taken a deep dive into the world of literature. She reads with passion, with hunger. Her eyes scan the pages faster than mine on many days and my house is littered with dog eared chapter books in virtually every corner.
We've done a good job, we told ourselves. We can check one very important parenting milestone right off the checklist, we thought.
And we inadvertently did.
We stopped reading to our daughter.
She read to herself so much there was hardly a moment left to fill. We shipped her off to bed every night with a pile of chapter books stacked high on her little nightstand, and let her read them all to herself. We thought we had done such a great job in parenting that we were being relieved of one duty so we could move onto the next.
She could read to herself so why would we continue to read to her?
Yesterday, I had her parent teacher conference and her teachers gushed about her. Exceptional. Bright. Well-adjusted. Healthy. Only some of the words they used to describe my curious, excited, passionate little girl.
The topic of reading came up and her teacher said what we already knew: voracious, advanced, everything you want to hear.
And then this:
"Are you reading to her every day?"
"Well, no," I explained. And went on to give all the reasons in the world why.
"Oh no, you need to keep reading to her," she insisted. "You're the reason she's the reader she is. You need to let her hear your voice, how you pronounce words, how you create emotion in the words you read. You need to share your favorite stories with her, you need to introduce her to your favorite characters, you need to create those memories and moments with her over a book."
"She still needs you."
She still needs us.
Of course she still needs us.
But not just for the next milestones or for the goals of tomorrow or the promises of the future.
She needs us for yesterday as well. For the things we've taught her and the things we are still teaching her...even when we think she can teach herself. When we think they are growing and maturing and evolving beyond us. When they don't think they need us. When they don't want us.
They still need us.
So last night, I let her read for a little while on her own after dinner and then I cut it short and told her I was going to read to her for a bit. Her whole face lit up. We chose a book off her shelf that she hadn't taken on yet herself. We curled up on the couch, her long limbs intertwined around mine, her head resting firmly on my shoulder.
And I read to her.
I let her hear my voice and how I pronounce my words. I told her about the characters, asking her questions along the way. I let her sense my emotion and enjoy one of my very favorite stories.
I let her need me.
And it gave me - and her - tremendous pride.
*image above of my little bookworm taking a reading break in the middle of Manhattan.
*originally published in October 2014