We’ve got ourselves a reader

I was sitting at the computer last week when I realized that things had gotten quiet. Sierra, happily playing with whatever toy she had found, was silent. It’s clichéd, but it’s true – when your child is quiet, you naturally wonder what has happened.

Yet, all I needed to do was turn around. There Sierra sat, surrounded by a pile of books. Opening each cover. Turning each page. Pointing at each puppy, each duck, each ball, each recognizable item illustrated by each illustrators hand.

Sierra was reading.

Kind of.

Sierra ReadingAnd I watched. She was completely enthralled. She’d finish looking at one and grab another. She’d pile them up in a circle around her chair, reach for another, begin again. We have a bottom shelf filled with her books – a discovery she’s always known about but has just begun taking advantage of – and when that was empty, it’s contents dumped in various states around the room, she moved up a shelf, erroneously grabbing Walden, followed by the biography of Edward R. Murrow.

She wasn’t impressed. She turned back to My Two Hands. She had no idea I was staring at her.

Kerrie has noticed this as well. And it seems all so natural. We’re a family of readers by nature. In action, the reading has trailed off, what with our available time used to relax and catch up. But by nature, it’s what we do. Almost by nature, it’s what she’s doing.

So to see this sends me into overdrive. I’m Proud Parent Number One. I’m already planning the next steps.

Ramona Quimby. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Where the Red Fern Grows. Harry Potter. And later on, John Steinbeck. Dave Eggers. Or will she turn to Jhumpa Lahiri and Zadie Smith? Will she buck the entire family and latch onto Jane Austin?

When you have a child, you naturally wonder what he or she will grow up to be. Will she be kind? Wily? Quick-tempered? Intelligent? You wonder if he or she will be artistically inclined, or technically motivated. Cars and electronics or books and paints?

And you naturally create your ideal view. Knowing you’ll love her either way. But also knowing how cool it would be to have a friend with similar interests, someone who shares your same desires, someone you can connect with on more than just familial bonds.

I have always believed in acting as a gentle but caring father, who will stand by Sierra without forcing her hand, who will lead without making choices for her. I expect nothing more than for her to do her best. I refuse to get caught up in the typical child rearing competition. And aside from reading books each night, we haven’t influenced this in any way.

I mean, she sure didn’t get it from us, the way we read anymore.

But Sierra is reading. Or, at least, taking the first steps toward reading, by focusing on the books, opening them and studying them and becoming completely lost in them, just as her mother and father do, just as her grandmother has always done, just as everyone before her has mastered.

And it’s amazing.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 22nd, 2008