Devour a book

It’s hard to tell by looking at Maddi that she’s mine, since her face is all Chris and her body parts resemble those of a sumo champion rather than either parent. But while she may not look one bit like her mom, she is finally beginning to share one of my interests.

At first, Maddi couldn’t care less that I read her a story every night before bed. While I was educating her on the language of farm animals, she was busy trying to catpult herself off my lap. When urged to feel the fuzzy down of the chickens or fluffy wool of the sheep, she instead would tug on the smooth hair of the mommy. (And why are almost all baby books about farms? Couldn’t there be just one about zoo animals, ocean creatures or Australian wildlife? Or — here’s a novel concept — something that’s not about animals at all? Surely some babies don’t like animals.)

But finally, in the past week or so, she has begun enjoying her bedtime story. Instead of plotting her escape from my lap, she sits patiently through the story of “Busy Little Mouse,” enjoying the rhythm and rhyme (and the inescapable animal noises). When we read the “Touch and Feel Farm” book, before I can prompt her to feel the dog’s furry tummy, she reaches out and eagerly manhandles the pages on her very own.

And when we read the ONE book she owns that is not overtly agrarian (although it concerns the lifestyles of ladybugs, which are often found on farms), she impatiently tries to flip forward through its cloth pages because she knows that at the end, she gets to crumple the ladybug’s crackly wings in her fat little fists.

Of course, baby that she is, sometimes Maddux takes a tentative nibble at a book, bringing new meaning to the term “voracious reader.”

Books are a great thing for Maddi — and for us. She’s been getting to sleep as early as we want lately, thanks to her bedtime routine of bath, infant massage, bedtime story and late-night meal. But the kicker is that I also have a new way to entertain her when she’s fussy in the car.

A few days ago, out of sheer desperation, I began reciting the lines of “Busy Little Mouse,” far and away her favorite book despite it being way too old for infants. I am sad to say that I have the entire book memorized word-for-word. As I said the first few lines, our little princess stopped her fussing, and by the time Little Mouse’s parents tucked him into bed, Maddi was smiling and cooing.

Yes, it is sad that the lines of children’s books have taken over memory space that previously held the names of muscles and the properties of elements. However, if that’s the price of teaching Maddi the joys of reading, I suppose it’s OK that I recall more about Little Mouse’s barnyard antics than I do about the Krebs Cycle.

Especially since my wee daughter’s book-nerdiness may be the only way in which she resembles me. (Of course, if the first book she checks out of the library concerns the inner workings of Juniper routers — or how to manage her business — we’ll know that the book-smarts are really just another thing she got from Daddy!)

And here is the requisite 15-week picture of our little bookworm in one of her less studious moods:

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