No doubt, many great things are being accomplished and enjoyed: more cooking together, more Netflix together, more game-playing, crafting, and simply hanging out together. But I would suggest a commonly overlooked “best use of time together” is – hands down, the absolute best, no contest – the activity of reading aloud to each other.
Don’t dismiss this with quick thoughts of “well, not my kids; they are too active, too old, too easily bored.” Don’t overlook this treasure for your children (teens and young adults included), for your relationships, or for yourself. This effort may seem to backfire the first time you try it or maybe during the first few times, but persevere and be patient. Start with reading for just ten minutes (unless they clamor for more!), be sure to give your children a choice about what is read, stay upbeat, and be consistent about fitting it into your day. There will be a change. A habit has a way of creeping into our lives and taking over. Welcome it and enjoy it.
Sarah Mackenzie, author of The Read-Aloud Family, explains it this way, “When we read with our kids, we step outside the noise, the hustle, the friction, and for just a few minutes, we are completely and totally present with them.”
Herein lies the first step in a most delightful journey. Beginning with the habit of reading aloud with your children, reading with your family will bear more gifts by enhancing relationships, connections, and joy. While these are enough reasons to read aloud together, there are many other benefits. Reading great stories is inspiring! Children learn the lessons of courage, kindness, patience, and hard work without any need of nagging or lectures from you. Story is so powerful and, in some ways, provides many opportunities for your children to imagine themselves in the protagonists’ situations and, in a sense, “practice” what they might do next; asking themselves questions such as “Will the situation turn out well? How might it have gone better?” Learning from mistakes in the pages of a book is certainly preferable in many situations rather than learning from real mistakes in today’s world. In addition, these lessons from the pages of a book can have a positive impact on children as they experience life in the real world. Story offers the truth.
“A story meets the child where he is. It sparks an authentic desire within him to do better, try harder, and love more...Stories reach us where nothing else can and quicken the heartbeat of the hero within us.” shares Sarah Mackenzie.
Reading aloud as a family builds up one's own family schema – references to favorite characters, funny incidents, inspiring quotes – begin to pop up in conversations, adding humor to tense moments, bringing clarity to disagreements, offering advice without lecturing, and showing affection with a simple word. As you make reading aloud a habit with your children – no matter their age – the shared stories become woven into your everyday lives.
Jim Trelease, author of the best seller, The Read Aloud Handbook, offers more reasons to take the time to read to your children. He shares the tremendous benefits to a child’s vocabulary development and their background knowledge – both key factors in future success in reading, writing, and critical thinking. This is easy to understand when we realize that a wonderful book is at least three times richer in good vocabulary than daily conversation. The positive academic effect of reading aloud is undeniable. It’s exciting to know that such a pleasurable and relationship-building activity could support your child both emotionally and academically!
The greatest gift we can give our children is a passion and love for reading. Why not get started today? It is as simple as pulling a good book off the shelf and beginning a new adventure with your children.
Get started on your family’s read-aloud journey!