The reasons to read to your child are numerous. That’s why Henry Winkler (aka The Fonz) has put his name behind the National Literacy Trust. When you read to your child, you show him that he is important enough to give him your undivided attention. This can build his self-esteem, and give him tools for fighting back disappointment in the future. You model the importance of reading. When you read to your child, you have multiple opportunities to reward and praise her for her questions, comments, and observations. This can strengthen your relationship, and build connections that make her more likely to go to you when she needs advice. Finally, when you read to your child, your child learns how those little squiggles on the pages represent specific sounds. Reading is the foundation for academic success.
I am delighted to introduce Mrs. Amy Ludwig, a personal friend, to this site. Amy has a Master’s in Education, and is a fantastic mother. When I decided that I needed an article about why you should read to your child, I immediately thought of Amy. I hope you enjoy her thoughts and stories, and it inspires you to take time out of your busy schedule to read to your child even more than you already do.
Reading is one of my favorite things to do, so it is no surprise that I enjoyed reading to and with my children. When our daughter Lily was born, I read to her regularly. By the time she was a year old, she was talking extremely well. “It must be because we read to her so much!” I thought self-approvingly.
Our son was born that next year, and we read to him just as much – if not more, since his sister was requesting book time, and by the time he came around, we had a bigger personal library of books to choose from. However, Calvin did not talk much at all until after he was two years old. What?? Although he seemed to jump from repeating words we said, to speaking in short sentences, it made me think “I can’t pat myself on the back too much … or kick myself in the backside.” Each child is unique no matter what we do or don’t do.
That being said, reading to your children is a worthwhile endeavor. Snuggling up with a book is good quality time. There are little things you end up teaching your children in a very natural way by doing this such as how to hold a book upright, which way to turn the pages, hidden clues in the pictures, how lettering on the pages represent sounds that are words with meaning. Enjoy this time with them and try not to get hung up on reading every word or make
every page into a lesson by naming and counting objects. If they want to jump ahead or simply hear the plotline, that’s fine. They are learning, even if you’re not explicitly teaching them anything. Let your kids take the lead and guide you through the pace of the story every now and then. There is also room for kids to multitask. Let your kids build with Lego blocks, color, play with action figures, etc. while you read aloud. You may be surprised by how well they are listening.
Another thing I discovered when my kids were little was they could understand books at a higher level than their reading ability. In fact, something that got me through many a lunch time was reading chapter books to them. They ate so slowly, but if I left the table they got so loud and goofy. Instead of just sitting there glaring at them while they ate, I grabbed Little House on the Prairie off the shelf and started reading it out loud. I was actually surprised at how well they listened at ages 3 and 4, and so I kept going. We read many
books at the kitchen table like this, as well as on the couch, in bed, during bath time and even in the car. In fact, a Harry Potter audiobook got us through a particularly long and stormy car ride! Another favorite was The Boxcar Children. I read the first book to them, but this was a series they picked up when they could read on their own. It helped when they found a series they liked since it was then easy for them to find the next book to read. I also really appreciated our local library! We could not have afforded to buy all the books they read, especially since they would read through some of them so quickly. Each week we would go to the library and check out our bag of books. They would pore over the books throughout the week, and I loved all the different ways I would find them reading.
Every parent is their child’s first teacher. I decided to take on this role more formally by homeschooling for the first few years since I wanted my kids to learn at their own pace. Learning to read was a chore for my daughter, but surprisingly easy for my son. I think the big, fat, instruction book I used was part of the reason these lessons brought my daughter to tears so I shelved it for a month. No need to make her equate reading with anxiety and sadness. What did inspire her to give it another go was a summer reading program from our local library where kids could earn “book dollars” and spend them at their store. She also got to experience the success of “reading a whole book” by herself when someone gave us BOB books, which teach children reading in a simple, fun, engaging way. This inspired her to learn more and more.
I remember a particular Saturday when I came downstairs and both of our children had gotten up on their own, and were sitting quietly on the couch looking at and reading books. I stood there with my mouth wide open, and thought, “This parenting thing just got a whole lot better!” It was fun when books would inspire them to do other things. Reading books by Andrew Clements, in particular, would then turn into projects like creating a neighborhood newspaper (The Landry News), writing a short story (The School Story), drawing comics (Lunch Money), etc.
We later transitioned to a charter school and public school. Both of my kids
were part of a gifted program, and especially excelled in reading and writing. The school they went to had them read a number of classics, and I would usually borrow some to read too! They read quite a bit of “non-school” books on their own through elementary school and middle school. If we told our son he had to put his electronics down and do something else, he would normally grab a book. He would also opt to do this when we told him to go outside.
As parents, we need to showcase that we also enjoy a good book (or in my husband’s case, a magazine or newspaper.) I recognize that parents today have it a lot harder than I did in the early 2000’s when there weren’t as many electronic distractions. They may have to make a more deliberate effort to make sure their kids pick up a book rather than a tablet. But technology can also be a useful tool in teaching kids to love reading. Had educational apps been around when I was homeschooling my children, I certainly would have incorporated them into our curriculum.
Being able to read well helps students in all school subjects. Both of our children are now in college, and they each received scholarships for part of their tuition. Most of their reading is done for classes, but every now and then I see them reading a book for their own pleasure. I know we gave them a good foundation of reading and now it is up to them to continue with it, and pass it on to their own children one day. I encourage you to read to your child as well. Everyone involved benefits when you do!