(Published on Barista Kids, June 2, 2010)
Pregnant with my first son, it was drummed into the heads of parents-to-be by doctors, nurses, healthbook writers and every well-meaning stranger on the street who insisted on petting my belly, that kids should be introduced to books as early as possible.

So I complied.

As my newborn son flailed around on his playmat, unwittingly hitting Mr Octopus and Miss Mirror-Thingamebob that hung from its arches with twitchy limbs he had yet to master, I regularly thrust at him all the baby cloth-books I’d collected in the months preceding his appearance in the world.

Did he appear interested? Er, yes. Possibly more in the sound of his mother’s voice. But I was certainly interested, and desired no distractions from worshipping at the altar of my firstborn.

So, like CDs on a rack, books slipped naturally into our daily routine of naps, meals, walks, bath, mat and tickle time.

As he grew and began to sit up, Spot the dog, Winnie the Pooh, Thomas the Tank Engine and Kipper the Dog series of small, brightly illustrated board books became favorites of mother and child. Day after day, neither tired of the antics of dogs or train or bear or of any of the other engagingly illustrated books aimed at young babies.

On the lowest bookshelf in the living room, I arranged an entire row of his books for the daytime, while in his bedroom, more books lined the cases for nighttime reading (although this wouldn’t come for many months as the kid would be desperate to sleep immediately after feeding).

The marvellous thing about my concerted efforts to fling books in his face was that, one beautiful day when he was 8 months old, the madness paid off. My son crawled independently to the bookshelf and picked out a book to sit and flip through – on his own!

This was when the board books really became handy. With his little plump fingers, he was able to turn those thick pages, and gaze at the pictures, and, presumably, to hear in his adorable little head the storyline that had been repeated ad verbatim, ad nauseum infinitum, day after day.

He quickly began to immitate our pattern of finishing a book, putting it aside, and picking a new one to read (in his case, look at). This became a welcome daily habit, miraculously freeing me up to have breakfast at 4:00pm, on occasion, instead of skipping it entirely.

Suffice to say that the habit never stopped. Every room my son has had since then has had an ever-growing bookshelf filled with books, and, funnily, his habits about arranging the books back on the shelf now, as a strapping 10-year-old, resemble his habits at 2. He just doesn’t bother.

But I don’t mind at all. It’s still hard to believe that it was so easy to lure him, hook, line and sinker, into the habit of reading.

When my firstborn was nearly 2, his younger brother came into the world, and I religiously repeated the book routine. Guess what? Even though he’s a completely different animal from his brother, he, too, was drawn to them like a bee to honey!

At age 1 (see the photo), he would sit and flip through his books for up to 40 minutes at a time, on his own, completely lost in his own world. The only difference is that, unlike his brother, he enjoyed (and still does) putting the books back on the shelf, and arranging them according to height!

How young were your kids when you introduced them to school? And what were their favorite books as infants and toddlers?