A mainstay through human history of the attainment of knowledge has been through written word. It is an indispensable way for generations of the past to pass on the cumulative knowledge of our existence and the understanding of the world around us. It is vital for ourselves and our children that we sustain and encourage this practice.
Books in themselves are a wonderful thing. I love to read. I love to read a real book. The smell, the texture is such a gratifying visceral sensation. I would recommend to anyone when life gets too busy, sit down, silence everything, and read a good book.
We all need positive ways to be with our children. We need ways to positively interact with them. They need to see us in lights that don't involve us disciplining and or telling them to clean their rooms; stop touching that, get your finger out of there, get that out of your mouth, please sit still, eat your food….the list goes on!
I have found one of the most enjoyable ways to connect with my children is to read with them.
From a very young age it is important for children to hear your voice, for you to tell them a story. It is important for a baby, let alone a toddler, to hear spoken word as it advances their capacity for speech and vocabulary advancement. It is a calming event for children to hear their parents' voices. There are countless resources to assess the importance of spoken word in children development. The positives are, it's cheap, easy, and effective! Read to your kids! Start young, and continue the effort even into their elementary years. Progress the material, the book size and depth as your child does.
Duursma, Elisabeth, Marilyn Augustyn, and Barry Zuckerman. "Reading aloud to children: the evidence." Archives of disease in childhood 93.7 (2008): 554-557.
Sukhram, D.P., Hsu, A. Developing Reading Partnerships Between Parents and Children: A Reflection on the Reading Together Program. Early Childhood Educ J 40, 115–121 (2012).
It is a foundation that stimulates imagination, vocabulary, interest in the world around them, development of their personality and what they enjoy. It engages you as the parent, you can take mini breaks and engage your children in the reading. Assess what they are thinking, see what they can relate to and or have questions about. It can expand your knowledge of your child as well as illuminate areas you can help them or bond with them.
My mother created a strong love of books as a child.
I remember my mother spending hours reading to myself and my brothers. It was a nightly tradition. We would wind down, lay in our beds as my mom took us on our nightly trip to the world of C.S Lewis to see what the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was up to. We got a taste of early pioneer midwestern life with Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie. We fought countless orcs and visualized how the dark tower fell when Frodo and Sam succeeded in their journey in the Lord of the Rings. These books, these evenings, meant a lot to me and my brothers. It gave us a lot to think about, imagine, visualize, and build on, non fiction or not.
My mother’s effort was dedicated, consistent, and took a lot of her time. It gave us so much more than just listening to a random story.
She took us to our town library religiously. After school trips. Summer reading programs, Book It contest with the excellently earned personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut. We would spend hours at our local library, pizza or not. The books progressed as my age did. We had our favorite aisles, favorite books, favorite bean bag chair to sit and read on. The library was and still is such a special place for me.
Now as a parent, I get to pass on what books mean to me to my kids.
We started when our children were babies, no knowledge of what we were saying, but it was our own tone, our presence, our speech patterns. We did this in the day, at night, any time to support their attention, their vision, their concentration and for our active connection with them. We used it to help them wind down for bed and connect them to different themes of the book. This was a constant at bed time. The reading situation is interesting for our family as we have one older child and our twins. Sometimes it was one parent doing their best to wrangle and read to three little bodies and minds. It usually was a switch nightly of what parent would read to which(one with the big boy, and one with the twins). The parent with the twins had more kids on a lap and more books to read, but that didn't matter. It was and still is a special time for myself and my wife.
We would let them pick a collection of books, it gave them ownership and control of their bed time versus a parent telling them “go to bed”.
The years have morphed into them being more independent. My oldest son reads wonderfully and takes his own journeys of pirates, primitive humans, cretaceous dinosaurs, or Ripley’s Believe it or Not compilations. My twins have progressed with confidence in their picture assessment, letter identification, and their own enjoyment of “their book” time. My daughter, as stated prior, from a young age would sit by herself for sustained periods of time and “read” books. She made up her own stories of what she saw and or from knowing the story of what she heard from us prior. Totally content, happy as a bug in a warm rug with her books.
Countless times my children have grabbed a stack of books and we find a comfy spot to take a journey together. We have to take turns, minor kerfuffles occur on the order, but they mostly enjoy each other's selections. Not so much dad’s accents.
My kids will come back from the local library, one of the most important places in any town, with a plethora of sacks filled with books they hand picked to bring home. They get to search the massive stacks for something they enjoy. They get to ask the librarian about things they are interested in, and see what the library has in store for them in the seemingly endless rows of books. When they come home it is an explosion of books, and there they sit with happy smiling faces pouring over book after book they found on their sojourn.
It is wonderful to see what they come home with. It is very fun to see what they find interesting. Presenting their haul is its own activity, and I have found it is a miniature window into their personality. In the most recent book treasure grab, my oldest son is obsessed with Eyewitness books, my middle son is enjoying comic book collections, and my daughter had multiple epic fairy tales and the latest Fancy Nancy adventure.
You can turn it into school at home with work on letter recognition, challenging their burgeoning consonant and vowel sounds. Progress their confidence in reading, sounding out words, and advancing definition understanding.
An important portion of this event is that you are spending time with your child. Neither of you are distracted, neither of you are stuck to a technological device. You are not letting the busy world stress your family apart.
They are contacting your body, you are together. The world can spin madly on, while you and your child can connect in a simple yet oh so important ways.
Read more around your kids, read more with your kids. Read more in general! Turn off the technology and breed the love of what a good book brings to your tables. Stay that course gents. Renew your library card and enjoy the stories to come.