A mother describes how reading books has influenced her life and children

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The Read with Me program has dedicated a part of its activities to promoting book reading for babies and toddlers. This program allows parents especially the ones from low-income families to learn how to read books and make conversations with their children from the moment they are born. A series of RWM workshops have been held in the Supportive Education Center of MahmoudAbad from July 2015 for three groups of mothers and their babies. You can read an interview with one of these mothers in the following paragraphs:

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Khadidje Rafi’i. I live in MahmoudAbad. I’m 28 years old and have 3 children aged 8, 5 and 1.

Mrs. Rafi’i, when did you join the “Reading for Babies and Toddlers” program?

When I got pregnant with my third child.

How has this program influenced your behavior towards your children and their upbringing?

When I first heard about this workshop, I didn’t take it into consideration. I was planning to do the same things I did to raise my first two children for my third child as well and I didn’t think this workshop would make any difference. In truth, I found the title of the workshop vague and unclear. But when I attended the workshop for the first time, I was mesmerized. I learned that even though providing food and clothes for children is important, our manners and behaviors towards them is even more important. Manners such as talking or reading books…

I always thought that babies don’t understand anything. So I never gave them pencils to draw with nor did I ever repeat the names of animals for them; I would just make the sounds of animals. But after this workshop, I learned that I can talk, read books, tell stories and talk about different feelings to my baby before she’s even born. I also learned that I should always tell the truth to my children. Of course, it’s not necessary for them to know all the truth, but anything that’s told to them should be completely honest; even during pregnancy.

That’s why when I participated in the workshop during pregnancy, I learned to talk to my baby in the womb. When she was born, I could easily see the influence it had on her.

What sort of influences?

For example, when she was a few months old and I called her name, she’d understand and react to her name. My husband and I didn’t read much to our two other children because we thought babies didn’t have a perception of books at that age; but now, we spend so much time reading with our little daughter and believe that she does understand. My daughter brings books to me all the time and asks me to read them for her. When her father returns from work, she says hello, shakes hands and sits beside him. Or whenever I give her a pencil, she scribbles. When she reaches her hand to grab something, she looks at me first. If I look upset or angry, she immediately withdraws. I hadn’t seen this sort of things from my other children at that age.

I always thought that other children were genetically or innately smart. But I don’t believe that anymore because by working correctly with my youngest child, she’s become so much smarter and more skillful than my other two children. As parents, we can develop the intelligence of our children.

Handmade Books by Mothers in children in the Gathering of the Reading with Babies and Toddlers Program - Read with Me in MahmoudAbad - January 2017How has this program influenced your family?

My husband and I learned about the importance of reading with babies together. My husband used to laugh at this at first, but after reading one of the books I was given in the workshop, he found out how important it was. He put his hands on my stomach and talked to our baby. The first time that our baby moved underneath his hand, he started crying. He said: “I feel like she understands what I tell her and she’s responding.” This was the most beautiful experience I had regarding the influence of this program on my family. Now, when my husband comes home from work, he also reads to our daughter.

These workshops have also influenced our behavior towards our other children. In the past, my husband and I would fight in front of our children. I could vividly see the bad influence of our fights in the paintings of my 5 year old child. I asked him once: “Why did you use so many dark colors in your painting?” he said: “Mom, I’m so angry! You and dad are always fighting!” Now we know we should never argue in front of our children.

Now I read books and tell stories to my older children as well. It’s interesting that when I’m telling stories to them, it seems like my daughter is also listening carefully because when I stop for a moment, she raises her head and looks at me.

Do you have any interesting experiences or memories from being in the workshops?

Yes… when I was pregnant, Ms. Dabbagh once asked me to put my hand on my stomach and sing a lullaby to my baby but I didn’t do so because I felt ashamed singing in front of all those mothers. If I ever go back in time, I will sing that lullaby because I feel more self-confident than before.

I wish you a great success. Thank you for your time.

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