Montessori: 1000 Books per Year

April 12, 2016

What are your favorite childhood memories? Many of mine involve books: going to the library with my mom and brother, snuggling up together and reading The Wind in the Willows before bed at night. One lovely book memory in particular is being at Lake Coeur d'Alene, lying on a blanket in the shade under a big tree, just after a lunch eaten in swimsuits following a morning of swimming, listening to my friend Rachel's mom, Elizabeth, read A Girl From Yamhill out loud to us. I thought it was the best story ever, and Elizabeth was quite the talented and engaging read-aloud reader. The sun was filtering gently through the green leaves and we could hear the soft lapping of the water at the lake's edge down the hill from where we were resting. Heavenly!

Today, Beverly Cleary turns 100! I loved this article in the New York Times about her life's work. My favorite part is when Cleary denies that Ramona Quimby is modeled after herself. "I was a well-behaved girl," she said, "but I often thought like Ramona." Didn't we all!

The article becomes more serious when author Nicholas Kristof writes, "Cleary says that when she goes back to Yamhill, everything seems the same as ever -- except that now the kids aren't playing in the streets but are inside watching television." That's crushing to read. Especially after loving and relating to her accounts of childhood play so deeply and intimately. It's depressing to think that today's children aren't getting those experiences. Not only are they not playing outside as they should be, but they're not reading either. Kristof points out that "We measure child poverty by household income, but a better metric might be how often a child hears stories read aloud." Wow.

This is something J and I have been discussing lately, but Kristof's article sealed the deal for us. We decided no more iPad on road trips. It makes everything easier, sure, but at a cost we're no longer willing to incur. Instead, we downloaded some audiobooks and when he and Coco went skiing at Schweitzer, a 2 1/2 hour drive each way on Sunday, he and Coco listened to Frog and Toad and Beatrix Potter tales all the way there, and all the way back. He said it was so fun, and they talked and laughed together. J and I had both become a bit sad and alarmed at how completely engrossed in the iPad Coco becomes. It's like she's not even there when she's using it. And, following a road trip and lots of iPad time, she was always in a foul mood for days afterward. Phones and tablets and screen time with children are the slipperiest of slopes.

Before bed at night, we read Coco and Theo each three books. If we read minimum three books per day, that is over 1000 books per year. It sounds like a lot, but it isn't really. It's just 15 minutes a day. That's all! Yesterday, J took them to the library and got stacks of new titles. Right now, Theo's favorite book is Counting Kisses. If he sees it, he reaches and whimpers for it until we read it. For almost a year, we had a to read Alfie and the Big Boys as one of Coco's three nightly books every single night, but she's finally expanded her repertoire.

Do you read together with your children every day? Do they get plenty of time outside? How does their childhood compare to your own?

PS - The Quintessential American Bedtime Story, Little Kids Like Reality and The Best Thing You Can Do To Help Your Child Succeed in School.

(Photo via NPR)

Join the conversation!

  1. wow...i never did the math! we read 3 books every night too (and felix always wants more...sometimes we give in and read more). he loves books and is learning how to read now in junior kindergarten. we started reading to uli too, but a bit later than we did with felix. i grew up with fairy tales on cassette tapes (!!! ;) ) and LOVED listening to them while i was doing activities. we have a couple of cd's for the kids, but i find them hard to come by...must check out the library for them!

    1. Yes, yes yes! Great idea to look for books on CD at the library. I'm so happy to hear you read together every night. I'm always so shocked at how many parents don't. :( Keep up the good work!!! And don't stop when he's reading himself. Hearing stories versus reading them yourself activates different parts of the brain. I joined my mom and little brother until I was in 6th or 7th grade even though I learned to read at 3!

    2. Hi hear you, Sabine, we haven't been reading to Paloma nearly as much as we did to Hunter at this age. OY! We also read 3-4 books per night with Hunter. Sometimes we try to cut it short or skip it, but the boy won't have any of that. Mamas, have you read the Frances books by Russell Hoban? I borrowed the CD collection from our local library and Hunter LOVED listening to the stories, and so did I. (We'd listen to them on the way to and from school.) They are so clever and humorous. I loved them so much I bought them on amazon so we can listen all the time!

  2. I noticed a real difference in behaviour when we didn't have any tablet/TV for awhile and we switched to having a "video day" every few weeks. It is hard to know how to strike a balance so that it doesn't become extra desirable and addictive by being "forbidden". On long plane flights we usually allow it pretty unrestricted figuring that when we are trapped in our seats for 6-7 hours it means everyone has a pleasant flight, but otherwise we avoid it on holiday. We love books and bedtime stories.
    Not having a good English selection at the library, it has become one of our extravagances to have a lot of children's books... My older one is 5 and loves classic chapter books at bedtime now which is so much fun for us too. My husband got to read The Secret Garden for the first time this way. We usually read until a specific time (or chapter end) rather than a set number of books now.

    1. Allison, you've got me excited for chapter books. :) I love it! Amen to the tablets/movies on planes. When you are trapped in that tiny of a space for that long, it's perfectly acceptable, even wonderful! With the car, we will just have to take more breaks and time for stretching our legs. ;) Do you order from Book Depository? They were our savior in Switzerland. xo

  3. Oh yes to The Book Depository. It's a great way for us to send (and receive) presents too because actually mailing a book ourselves would cost as much as the book itself!


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