I love reading.
I love getting lost in a world of pure imagination (rest in peace, Willy Wonka) and escaping from the brutality of the real world. I love how a well-constructed sentence or passage can evoke vivid images and strong emotional reactions in the reader. And I love learning. Fiction, chock full of cultural and literary references, can teach nearly as much as some non-fiction if you’re willing to do a little research on an unfamiliar concept. Because I love reading, I want my kids to love reading, which is why Wife and I make time to read to the boys every day.
Many of the advantages are obvious and well-documented. Reading to your kids helps promote a broader vocabulary. The more words they hear, the more they are likely to know. It kick-starts their intelligence. Unfortunately there are a number of children who reach kindergarten without the benefit of having been exposed to books at home. It stokes the creative fires of their imagination. Anything can happen in books, and we all know kids need help thinking up more crazy stuff, right? And it helps them develop an attention span. They have to sit still for ten whole minutes if they want to find out what happens to the princess at the end.
And all those reasons are great reasons to read to our children. But in reality, we are seldom conscious of all of this when we sit down to read Little Blue Truck for the ninety-eighth time. Reading becomes a more personal experience, and it means different things to all of us. Wife and I have experienced first-hand how it has improved our little guys’ minds, but we have also seen a lot of other more subtle benefits to their development.
- It becomes part of the bedtime routine. I have a post about bedtime coming up later this month, but I’ll give a little teaser here. Every night we get the boys in their jammies, sit down next to the bed and open a couple books. This is a signal to the kids that the day is over and it’s time to wind things down. It’s become such a special part of our day that we have—on rare occasions—actually doled out punishment by not reading at bedtime. They love their books so much that the threat of losing them helps keep them in line.
- It helps them feed their passions. Bubby loves trucks and trains and anything with wheels that goes vroom. So when we go to the library, those are the books we find. I have learned more about excavators and bulldozers from that little guy than I ever cared to know. One day he will be passionate about something else. And when he gets there we will find that section at the library. I hope he gobbles up every book he can find about that topic.
- It helps make them resourceful. OK, I’m going to admit something here that pains me greatly: I don’t know everything. My boys don’t know that yet, so I’ll thank you to keep it between us for now. One day their curiosity will eclipse my vast pool of knowledge. When they start asking me questions I can’t answer, my hope is that all this reading we’ve done will lead them to the realization that they can go look it up themselves, that they don’t need me to help them. Wait, maybe I should rethink this one…
- It helps you teach them lessons. From kindness to safety to sharing to perseverance, many children’s books end with a moral. While reading the book on its own is a good way to convey a positive message to your little prince or princess, Wife and I always try to take it a step further and relate it to something our boys have already encountered. If Llama Llama gets in trouble for hogging all the toys, we talk to Bubby about the importance of sharing with Boo. When Little Blue Truck meets the mean dump truck, we talk about the importance of always being polite. Regardless of the lesson the book is trying to teach, we take the opportunity to talk to the boys about something they might actually encounter every day. For those books that don’t have a lesson to teach, make up your own. Talk about the shapes, pictures or facial expressions you see on the pages.
- It is an excellent opportunity to bond with your kids. Make reading time a special time for the family. Boo goes to bed first, but when we read his bedtime book we give Bubby the opportunity to join us. Even if it’s only ten minutes, we get the whole family in one room and just sit together. No TV, no phone, no tablet. Just us and a book or two. They’ve both come to enjoy the books and the closeness so much that they will often come to us, book in hand, and ask us to read them a story. And we usually plop down wherever we are—on the couch, in the living room, in the middle of the kitchen floor—and read.
The advantages of reading are endless. I could spend another thousand words on all the reasons you should read to your kids. But, in the immortal words of Reading Rainbow, don’t take my word for it. Everyone has their own reasons for reading to their kids. And the best reason in the world to read to your kids is your reason.