Q: In your book on 2-year-olds, you recommend reading to a child from early on. My problem is that every time I attempt to read to my 16-month-old son he grabs the book away, closes it, or wants to flip the pages himself. If I try to take it back from him, the battle is on, one that I do not wish to engage in. I am an avid reader, and I had hoped to instill a love of reading in him as well. I certainly don’t want to make reading an unpleasant experience for him. I'm sure there is a very commonsense solution that I am simply missing, and I hope you will enlighten me.
A: I have consulted the oracles of commonsense and they recommend that you simply wait until your son is older and try again. Yes, reading to a child from as early as possible is beneficial in many ways. It stimulates a child’s interest in books, enriches imagination, enhances language development, provides a setting for a very nurturing parent-child experience, and stimulates the growing brain. I don’t know of any studies demonstrating that reading to a child increases IQ (it would be difficult to impossible to isolate that one variable), but it seems logical to me that it would.
So yes, I recommend that parents read to children from an early age. Along with that, I recommend (based on a solid body of research) that preschool children watch absolutely zero television (research psychologist Jane Healy, author of Endangered Minds, recommends that children remain TV-free well into elementary school) and have absolutely no interaction with video games and computers. Reading to a preschooler and then letting him watch television (or play video games) is akin to taking one developmental step forward and then one developmental step backward.
But my entire recommendation reads as follows: Parents should read to a child from an early age as long as the child is willing to sit still and pay attention, obviously wants to be read to (goes and gets books and asks a parent to read to him), and the experience is enjoyable for both parent and child. If all those conditions are not yet in place by 16 months, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Just keep offering the opportunity to your son. Don’t push. And stop worrying. Believe me, if he’s not receptive to the experience for another year that will not make any difference in the long run.
Q: My father-in-law has about one month to live. Should our children — ages 7, 5, and 2 — attend the funeral or viewing?
A: Sit down with the older two children, describe to them what a viewing and a funeral are all about, and let them decide. At a viewing/funeral my wife and I attended several years ago, some of the children — even a couple of pre-teens — remained in the foyer of the church during the viewing but attended the funeral. I thought that letting them make that decision was quite civilized.