It's probably not surprising to any of us that reading aloud to our children from birth is important. I think all of us innately know the many benefits of reading with and to our children. I don't think that I've ever run into another mom that said, "I'm not reading to my kids, and I think it's a bad idea."
But I also think it's easy to "know" what the studies say and still struggle to sit down and actually read. It takes time and energy to consistently crack open a book with your children. I figured I would share 5 reasons that we love to read with our kids in the hope that it relates to your own situation and will either encourage you to keep going or nudge you to start.
We can put on a movie and "bring the family together", but there is something completely different about reading. (I am certainly not against movies! We have a great time laughing through our favorite films from time-to-time.) Reading requires focus. If you don't actively pay attention, you'll lose the story and miss vital information. There's something special about every family member using their imagination to picture what's happening at the same time. The brain is actively engaged when it's learning through story more so than any other task. The bonds formed over a good book tend to be more intimate and stronger than the bonds formed over other forms of entertainment.
Whenever Charlie or I are reading a story, the children start to hear and see us in a different light. They begin to connect our voice with "creativity", "imagination", and "narration". This can lead to better conversations in other areas of life. It also shows them that we care. As parents, it is easy to unknowingly train our children to see us only as an authority, seeing our role as a parent much like an employee sees a boss at a rigid corporation. When we take the time to creatively engage our children, however, it shows them that we care and helps them to see our full role as a parent.
We haven't see this play-out yet, but we'll take the word of those who have gone before us. It's well documented that children are more likely to be readers when they are older if they develop the habit when they are younger. Charlie and I approach this in the most simple mindset: We want to model and participate with our children what we want them to do when they grow up. We desire them to use their imaginations, to be avid learners, and to rely on books as a resource for knowledge. We are Christians and the habit of "going to a book" for ultimate truth and knowledge is core to our beliefs.
Routines are a great way to develop and change behavior. It's proven that one powerful way to change behavior is to develop a system (and a routine is simply that, a system). We've developed a bedtime routine to read with our children. It's been a vital tool to help them calm down and "shift" into bedtime, helping us to get them to bed with less hassle. Reading is important for so many reasons, but one shameless reason is to calm down these endless balls of energy. It is important to note that screens (phones, tv's, tablets, etc) are known to create restlessness, especially before sleeping. So I can't think of a better way to use the mind that doesn't require a screen.
Because Charlie is working at his job most of the day, it's rare that we get to "teach" together. When we read at night, he and I can team-up to help the kids get the most out of the experience. He might take the youngest and hold her still so the older kids aren't distracted. Or perhaps he'll read and I'll do the wrangling. Either way, it's a nice shift to have two leaders during a learning opportunity!
If you love reading with your kids, let us know why in the comments! We love to hear about how different families approach this wonderful part of family life.
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