When I was four months pregnant, I bought the complete works of Roald Dahl.
I have wonderful memories of my parents reading his books to my brother and I when we were tiny. I remember cuddling up to them at bedtime, my eyes widening as I tried to put myself in poor Matilda’s shoes or imagine the bravery of Fantastic Mr Fox. I would gasp in horror when Mrs Pratchett pulled the rat from the sweet jar in the Great Mouse Plot and dissolve into giggles at the absurd ingredients of George’s Marvellous Medicine. A love of reading and the gift of imagination is easily the best thing my mum and dad ever gave to me and I couldn’t wait to pass the tradition on to the little person growing in my belly.
We began reading to Imogen the day we brought her home from the hospital - wonderful tales of heroes big and small. At first, she usually slept through the stories, lulled by our soothing tones. By the time she was a couple of months old, she would stare at the brightly coloured characters on every page, her watchful eyes seeming to take it all in. By six months old, books were a regular part of her nightly bedtime routine - right between bath and bottle.
At 17 months old, I’m staggered and proud to see the effect our daily reading has had on her. Books are most definitely not restricted to bedtime in our house. She’ll often come tottering into the room carrying a book she’s selected from her book chest and thrust it into mine or her daddy’s hands. ‘Book,’ she’ll say, by way of request - book was one of her first words - before sinking onto our knees and waiting patiently.
Her concentration is impressive, she’ll often sit through three or four books back-to-back and her attention rarely wanes. Her favourite books are one with lilting rhyming verses and she giggles when we do all the voices - daddy’s ‘old wizard’ voice is her favourite, although she’s also rather partial to my ‘nosy ladybird,’ inspired by the Queen.
She likes to turn the pages, can identify tiny details in the pictures and takes every opportunity to make the corresponding animal noises.
She applauds after every book too, which panders beautifully to our egos.
Don’t get me wrong, Imogen loves an episode of Peppa Pig as much as the next kid and we can’t get through a day without having to put some Sofia The First on for her, but I honestly believe a literary foundation is one of the best - and simplest - things we can do for our children.