• Jennifer Hastings

Three Reasons To Making Reading to Your Children a Priority!

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

  1. Fun Factor

I don’t know if you are like me, but a regular weekday can bring with it a few hundred responsibilities. By the time bedtime rolls

around I can sometimes feel like a limp dishrag… everything I had left to give has already been wrung out. I have this desire to head to the couch and just nest. Taking the time to read with my kids is always worth the delay to my precious couch time though. There is something about reading to them that allows me to let go of all my adult stress. It helps me enter into my children’s world, two or three sentences into Because of Winn-Dixie and I feel my heart pause and begin to exhale. There sitting on Claire’s flower bedspread, I’m transported into someone else's life. I have my girls' undivided attention and we are all breathing easier, the cares of the day rolling off of us like water down the drain.

I love how they ask for just one more chapter as I close the book sitting it on the nightstand kissing and hugging them both. As I stand there by their light switch, I know a special kind of magic has conspired. All three of us just experienced the most soothing kind of fun. I pray a silent prayer over them for their dreams to be filled with wonder and delight as I turn out their light feeling much lighter myself. Somehow those fifteen minutes help cancel out my impatience and their bickering and we are all reminded of the love we have for each other.

2) Provides Parents a Way to Communicate and Connect

When you read about a character’s experiences, all sorts of issues in life are bound to come up in your conversation. Reading quality literature to your children provides a safe way for them to ask you questions. Maybe they have been wondering about something or have some deep questions they want to ask, but do not know how to bring it up. Books are the key to unlocking your children’s thoughts. As adults, it is hard to remember what being a second grader or fourth grader is really like. They face pressures and problems just like we do only they don’t have the experience or years to help guide them to solutions as we do.

You can get to know your children in a different way when you discuss literature with them. Stewart is reading aloud Where the Red Fern Grows with our kids after dinner. I’m usually the one who reads to them and it has been such a treat to watch their faces as he reads. So much is taking place in their hearts and minds as they experience this classic novel read out loud. Billy, the main character, saves his money for two whole years to buy his beloved hound dogs. My girls were fascinated with his drive and work ethic to stick with something for so long. After the chapter, Stewart and I were able to have a conversation with them about work ethic. Life’s lessons and universal truths are present in children’s literature and using characters’ lives as a bases for the conversation makes it easier to have teaching moments.

Caroline tends to act out what the characters are feeling with her facial expressions while Claire in the most grown-up way will look over at me and place her hand over her heart like she approves of our hound loving hero’s actions and maybe, just maybe, like she has a little crush on him.

Something about sitting in the living room with the TV off brings us closer together as a family.

3) Gives Children a Voice

Kate DiCamillo is one of my favorite children’s authors and we have read many of her books aloud. A few months ago, I finished reading, The Tiger Rising about a friendship between a boy whose mother died of cancer and a little girl whose dad left their family. In the book Rob, the main character, talks about his suitcase of feelings and how he feels he must keep it closed and shut tight.

When I finished the book, Claire groans, “I don’t want it to end!”

“What do you think will happen next if there were one more chapter?” I ask.

Claire rattles off her spin on the final chapter while Caroline is still and unusually quiet. When Claire finishes, I ask Caroline, “What are you thinking?”

“Well, I’m carrying my own suitcase of sadness.” She says as she pulls the covers up over her face.

I pull back her covers and scoop her up in my arms.

“I miss Mimi so much.” She manages to choke out between sobs.

“Oh, Baby! I do too. I do too.” I rock her back and forth as my own tears start and I assure it is more than okay to open up her suitcase and let her sadness out. I tell her about my last bite of sadness when my suitcase popped open.

The other day driving to school Carter asked me, “Is Mimi in heaven?”

“Yes, Carter she is heaven with Jesus.” I tell him.

“I need to tell her something.”

“What do you need to tell her?” I ask.

“These shoes are too short now.”

I talk to Caroline about how this moment with Carter pried open my suitcase and I had to pull over and let some of my hurt out after I dropped him off at school. Mimi loved to take him shopping for shoes and he was so confused, he knew he couldn’t tell her, but he wanted her to know because he knew she would make sure he got a new pair.

“You can come to me with your feelings and we can cry together, you do not have to hold them in. I miss Mimi every day and I cry about it too. It is not good to keep your feelings locked inside you."

I look over at sweet Claire and her eyes are filled with grief too. I hug her and we cry together. Rob and Sistine, may be fictional characters, but I'm grateful to them. They gave my Caroline a way to share her grief with me. I was at a loss about how to talk with them about them missing Mimi. We talk about her all the time, but we haven’t broached the subject of how much we miss her and how much it hurts. Through reading, Caroline was able to see herself through the eyes of the main character and was able to finally give her feelings a voice. That night when I turned off the light and left their room, my suitcase felt a little lighter too.

Reading is a gift to your children, but it is also giving yourself a gift that never breaks or tears up. You are giving them the gift of language and memories of a special time with you. The way I see it, reading for just fifteen minutes a day to your children is the best investment you can make in your children’s lives.

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