Reading to your troopers is such an easy thing to do - you don't need any special equipment (I read everything to my troopers. Not just books but magazines, letters, newspapers...even sauce bottles) and it has such long lasting benefits.
I don't read for pleasure - I read to absorb information. I once had a novel about Brian Boru, but I leant it to a fellow Commando in Norway and he never returned it. I think it took me two weeks to notice.
Yet when my first son came along, I started to read to him - a lot. Everything about my own upbringing told me it was the right thing to do: my parents had read to me, and my three brothers, every night. I even remember some of the stories: Mrs Pepperpot and Mr Pink-Whistle. At primary school, every day ended with a story. One of my favourite programmes on TV was Jackanory. Adults read to young troopers - that was the order of the Universe.
To be honest, I wasn't really aware of all the positive benefits that reading out loud would give my troopers. I was helping them learn the language of course, but also helping them develop their own clear speech patterns (and believe me, I have three eloquent troopers here who can demonstrate how successful that was). It even helped with bonding. When I was a very new dad, I found it quite challenging to bond with a new person that couldn't communicate with me at all. Reading out loud really helped because all of my troopers responded to being read to, long before they could talk. They would focus intently on my face when I read to them. They would visibly relax at the night time story. We engaged.
As a stay at home dad that has been reading out loud to my troopers for a decade, I have a few tips that other new dads might find useful:
- Don't feel embarrassed about reading out loud. Your troopers are the most forgiving of audiences.
- For baby troopers, choose something you want to read. They just want to hear the sound of your voice and learn the rhythm of the language. You're the one that needs a good story to keep things interesting. I didn't really know what books would be suitable to buy for a baby trooper, so I opted for an older children's book that I would be interested in reading myself. Harry Potter was the perfect solution for me - and many a night I continued to read aloud long after my son had gone to sleep.
- As troopers get a little older, get illustrated books that you can read to them while they look at the pictures and words (not a night-time activity in my opinion, as it's too stimulating).
- A bedtime story is a perfect way to settle your troopers but make sure it isn't too exciting. Speak slowly and calmly.
- Don't be discouraged if your baby trooper cries a lot in the beginning when you're getting them into a bedtime routine. Remember, it is the only way that they can communicate with you, and they could be trying to let you know they're uncomfortable, or hungry, or wet.... Be vigilant.
I don't think it's a coincidence that all of my troopers have got a great vocabulary and love to read. I think that reading to them fired their imaginations: they love books and love to read, and write, stories. Bearing all this in mind, I can't think of any reason why a dad wouldn't want to read out loud to his troopers. I still don't buy books for myself, but I do buy books to read out loud to my troopers. So actually, I would like to revise my first statement. I do read for pleasure after all.