We listen from downstairs and hear Ella shifting in her bed. A sliver of light from her bedroom slips into the darkened hallway as Tim peeks upstairs to see if she is still awake. It’s 10 o clock, three hours since we tucked her into bed, but we’re not angry. In fact, we grin at each other, swelling with pride. We have reached a new parenting milestone: Our 7 year-old daughter is now staying up past her bedtime to read.
Books consumed so many of the nights of my youth. I remember crawling into bed, snuggling down deep in my covers, and reading by a lamp until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. I knew I might regret those late night literary marathons in the morning, but I could not resist the lure of just one more chapter. So, I couldn’t help but smile when I realized my daughter had been bit by the literary bug as well.
We began reading to Ella early on, rocking our baby to the soothing sounds of a favorite childhood book. We read for her and we read for us, happy to revisit Dr. Suess, The Little Critters, and The Poky Little Puppy. I remember the awe at her attention span as she grew, sitting calmly through story after story, handing us one book after another. Seeing Ella with a book in hand, asking mom or dad to read, became a common sight.
The early days of Ella “reading” to herself delighted us. We enjoyed listening to her recite portions of stories she recalled from memory and loved hearing her make up entirely new tales using pictures. When her little brother Ezra came along, Ella loved to sit and “read” to him regularly. These days it’s not uncommon to see her sit down to do her daily school reading, a little brother on either side of her, listening intently as she reads aloud.
Once Ella began preschool, she often came home eager to retell story time. She started drawing her own stories at the kitchen table and. as her writing skills developed, soon became both author and illustrator. I quickly realized that her artistic skills far exceeded my own and loved seeing her stretch both her imagination and vocabulary to create new tales.
Tim and I take turns each night now reading a chapter from Harry Potter, anticipating sharing our favorite scenes with our daughter. It’s as though the three of us have embarked on an adventure together, discussing symbolism, exploring vocabulary words, and decoding the books’ mysteries as we go. In fact, Harry Potter even led to Ella’s first real crush on The Boy Who Lived himself and we couldn’t have been prouder.
We glance at the clock again, agreeing that she really should go to sleep. I head upstairs to tell her it’s time to turn out the light and she says, “Just let me finish the chapter! Please!” I pretend to reluctantly agree, but I’m secretly thrilled by her response. I smile and head to my room, inspired to delve into a good book of my own.
What are some of your favorite parenting milestones?