As an advocate working in the field of early childhood health and development, I had a lot of tools at my disposal when I became a parent. I recall returning from the hospital in May of 2016, a few days after giving birth to my beautiful daughter, Nora, and immediately sitting down and opening a book. It was honestly the first activity we did after introducing her to the family dog. That moment kicked off what is now an almost three-year love of reading. A book can provide such a powerful force of connection between an adult and a child. And for a new parent, bewildered at the new human I was just getting to know, books provided the low-pressure, yet powerful way to build our relationship. To this day, we start and end the day with reading with each other.
Of course, not every part of parenthood is this breezy and uncomplicated. Visits to the doctor, for one, were always a source of stress in the first couple of years of Nora’s life. Each visit, my knowledge of infant growth and development told me that I was her anchor and her source of calm amidst new faces and checking of ears and eyes. Yet, it was me who cried more during her first vaccinations. And I couldn’t seem to stay calm when she cried during her strep test at nine months old. So, when we prepared for her 2-year old well-child visit, even after watching all the “Elmo at the doctor” episodes, we were both nervous in the exam room, waiting for her pediatrician to arrive. Everything changed the moment Dr. Coogan walked in holding a book. She sat down and looked into Nora’s eyes as she handed her the magic book that would not only be read over and over when we got home, but would ensure Nora left the doctor not having shed a tear, excited to visit next time. The gift of a book at a check-up is not only a gift to cultivate a love of reading…it’s a source of connection between pediatrician and child that further supports a strong foundation of healthy development for a lifetime.