Reading for Connection
Reading aloud to children—especially young children—is one of the top two things I recommend to parents who want to support their young children’s literacy development. I wrote another blog post about why reading and imaginative play matter some time ago, but today, I'm going to share a bit more about reading for connection and why it's so important to me and my family.
My older one has been a bookworm from Day 1, but while my younger one was slower to warm up, “Read book!” is now an oft-heard refrain in our house. He even woke up in the middle of the night a couple weeks ago repeatedly calling for “Book! Book!” (Those of you who know me personally know that even my love of books does not come anywhere near my love of sleep, so no, I did not concede.)
Still, one of THE most important benefits of reading aloud is fostering the enjoyment of reading — experiencing the joy, comfort and excitement that reading can bring — together with a loved one. My younger one has gathered that reading time is a snuggly time, a cosy time, a focused time. I have said it before, but I cannot say it enough -- in an age of multitasking and digital distractions, being 100% present and giving my kids my full attention is one of the hardest parts of parenting. And precisely for that reason, story time in our home is sacred. Phones are put down, away from the kids' bedroom, where we cannot heed the calls of notifications from emails, messages and the like, or easily pick them up "just to check". .
Story time is the time to step together into the worlds of our books -- when the voices come out, when the day-to-day quarrels and squabbles are momentarily left at the door. Story time is laughing together over the antics of Piggie and Gerald. Story time is answering the gazillion questions of what this means or that means, talking about what's that in the picture, why he's doing that or where she's going next.
Sometimes we all pile into bed and read together, sometimes both kids climb on my lap, and now, as my older one is starting to read, sometimes big brother reads to little brother and my heart melts.
I don’t know where in my moves across cities and oceans the actual photo has ended up, but one of the photos that encapsulates so much of my childhood is a picture of me and my sister. I look to be about 3 or 4, wearing pyjamas, sitting on my sister’s lap. And she? A Cookie Monster puppet on one hand and a book in the other, reading to me. And there began a lifelong love of words and stories.