My daughter’s first, simple words perfectly capture our family’s vices and values. From the time she could barely sit still long enough to listen to three pages of beginner board books, a request for reading together has rarely been denied. She never cared about how well we read, or if we did voices or not. The experience was really about taking the time to engage with her. Reading together with her as a toddler and a preschooler was an opportunity to be close together, to hear our voices and enjoy a shared experience together.
Taking time to read together has a lasting impact on families, particularly children. The most obvious impact I see with my daughter is that she just plain loves to read. It’s not unusual to walk into our living room and find her bouncing on an exercise ball with her children’s encyclopedia in her lap. “I just wanted to know more about __,” fill in the blank. Taking the time to read together taught her that reading is fun. Now that she’s an independent reader, reading is one more tool in her arsenal of things to do. When families take a little time each day to read together, children are encouraged to read more on their own and engage their own curiosities and interests. Creating a family reading habit makes reading homework feel like less of a chore. There’s no battle to read the 20-30 minutes required reading homework when it’s something your family regularly does anyway.
Reading together doesn’t just have to be reading aloud. One of our family’s treasured times together is just being close together while we each read our own thing. From watching us or reading along with us, children learn that reading can be a time to slow down and catch your breath. We also take a few minutes every day, either at dinner or in the car to talk about what we’ve read recently. Kids watch and listen to us so much more than we realize. Showing our kids how we read, whether it’s for fun, for work or to stay informed on topics relevant to us, teaches them that reading is a lifelong investment. Engaging children in family conversations about what they’re reading teaches them that they have valuable ideas, opinions and questions. It opens the door to a desire to continue to learn and to continue to read in order to learn.
But the best part of reading together as a family is the warm bond it creates. One of my grandma’s favorite stories to tell was of the night she pulled out a bedtime book that I took from her hands, saying, “No, Grandma. Tonight, I’m going to read it to you!” Reading together has become a family tradition as rich as any holiday gathering. Each time we snuggle in together to read at bedtime, each time we open a book to read aloud during dinner, each time we sit in the driveway because we just have to get to the end of the chapter of our audiobook, we create a memory filled with words, images, curiosities and the simple joy being engrossed in a story together.
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This blog first appeared on boystowntraining.org.