Books, Children, Musings

Reading Together: A Lifetime of Stories

One of the, I guess, tenets when it comes to reading (in general not simply when it comes to children) is that it is important to read with others.

In my adult life this takes the form of book clubs, where we all read individually then come together to talk about what we liked, disliked, felt worked, felt was horrendously done, felt was pushing boundaries, or too stuck in the tropes.  In this way, the solitary act of reading becomes communal.  Ideas that never occurred to me are brought up by people I care for and trust.  I am forced to read outside of my comfort zone consistently, to varying results, and in general have way more fun.  In fact writing or filming reviews and responding to the comments is also an aspect of this.  There is less structure involved, but it is definitely me reaching out into the void and seeing if anyone is reaching back.

So, what does this have to do with kids?

Well, I am of a firm belief that just because a child has crossed the hurdles and is reading on their own, doesn’t mean that bed time stories or story time should disappear.  I wish that more parents would continue reading books to their kids as they grow.  Here is why:

  1. It allows the parents to bring up difficult topics in a safe environment (that of you living room) in a way that distances the topic from the child.
    • The example I often give for this is that I would get parents coming in asking if there were any books for kids who were just going into middle school that would give them examples of peer pressure and bullying.  There are, and if you read those books together, it allows your child to ask you questions about the story, as well as allowing you to give your own input.  “Wasn’t the way that Suzy just stood there and let her best friend say means things about that boy a little mean?  Don’t you think she should have said something to her friend.  It made her uncomfortable and it made the other boy sad so why not tell her to stop that?”  Then you can have complex discussions about what it means to be a bystander, or how hard it is to stand up to friends, without it being about their own friends yet.
  2. It allows parents to curate books for their kids that they loved.
    • I don’t know how many parents came up to me an explained how sad they were that their kids’ weren’t reading one of their favorite books from childhood.  I suggested reading together in these instances as well.  It means that your kid will participate in the story with you, and you can talk about what it was like reading certain sections as they come up in the story.  It helps bridge the gap.  They might not be interested in reading it on their own because the covers don’t look as flashy as newer books, but they love you and I’m sure that more than 1 or 2 of you have watched a kid who was adamant against listening to a story slowly get sucked in when it is read aloud.  Give it a try, you might be surprised.
  3. It is a great reason to turn the t.v. off and stay in touch with your kids
    • I was definitely a child who wanted more than anything to sit at my computer playing video games all hours of the day and night, but books would sing their siren song and pull me away to other worlds as well.  If you make story time a family event, in the same way that television is a structured event in their lives, they will likely love it as well.  One of the things that makes T.V. so enticing is its dependable nature.  Every Thursday at 3 they know they can watch favorite characters interact and enjoy themselves.  As they grow older they may be more inclined to doing things with friends, but if you have a routine of reading on a particular night during the week, it becomes scheduled and they will log off to join you, or miss crucial aspects of the story.
  4. It improves reading comprehension and fluency.
    • Yes, reading silently will do this as well, but not all kids will sit with a dictionary at their side.  They might treat you like a living one if you read a book that is slightly more challenging for them.  You can instill good habits in this way by looking up the words, or teaching about context clues.  It will build skills that they will use for the rest of their life, not to mention build their vocabularies instantly.  Take the time, learn together.
  5. It gives you a reason to engage with your kids.
    • In the same way that you might want to share favorite books with them, they might want to share favorite books with you.  Yes, they may love something that you can’t stand, but if you read together and they tell you about everything love, excitement is infectious.  You will stop feeling like they are speaking a different language.  You will gain insight into the characters they take as role models.  You can even blow their mind with your great trivia about the books they love.  Kids want to feel appreciated and this is a very simple  way to do that.

Those are just a handful of reasons to give it a try.  I still read aloud to my friends.  I still listen to audio books.  There is something about listening to stories that is extremely basic to us as humans.  I hope that you incorporate it into your lives.  Stories are meant to be shared and I hope you enjoy sharing them.