Why We Need to Read to our Kids

readIf you don’t read to your kids, you should. If you do read to your kids, good for you!

Sir Richard Steele once said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” My mother must have believed that, because she took us to our local library regularly and allowed us to check out as many books as was permitted.

I don’t remember being read to as a child, but I know I was. How else would I have memorized the story The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe by the age of three?

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This is the book. It’s at least 60 years old.

Why else would I have been asked to recite this book to visitors in our home? There had to be some adults there who were impressed at what this three-year-old could remember. I’ve often wondered if the reading of that story is what made me want to have a dozen kids – until I ran out of eggs, veins, and money (and not necessarily in that order.)

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Another favorite of mine was Jenny Wren’s New House, the story of Mr. and Mrs. Wren who needed a place to live. Johnny Wren flew on ahead and made nests in many places, to which Mrs. Jenny turned up her nose at every single one of them. In the dividing of our mother’s things, each of us wanted that book – small wonder why. In the meantime, we’ve been able to find that book online and now many of us own a copy of that book and read it to our children and grandchildren.

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My Jenny Wren book

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During elementary years, we were read to every afternoon for story hour. Our teachers recognized the importance of relaxation and learning at the same time.  We traveled places we’d never visit in real life. We learned history and semantics during story hour. We learned conflict resolution and problem solving. We learned about cultures and climates and knew the story was a good one when a teacher had to pause in her reading because she herself was caught up in the moment of sadness we experienced during the reading.

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Give your children that gift of language, imagination, pretend, and learning.

Here is What You Can Do

Start by reading to your children before they are old enough to read for themselves.

A six-month old can learn to turn a page in a hard cardboard book when he’s read to and told to “turn the page”.  Story time will become a favorite part of the day as your children get older. Ask me how I know.

When your child is able, encourage him to read on his own.

As parents, we should build as many bridges as we can to help our kids enjoy reading. We begin by reading to them and  by encouraging them to read on their own. Books on tape with page-turning signals are a great way to help your child follow along in a story before they can actually read the words on the page. Older children can read to younger children. Mine used to read their assigned story in their reading book out loud to a younger sibling. I could monitor from the next room as I helped another child, and a younger child got entertained at the same time.

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Talk to your child.

Listening comprehension comes before reading comprehension.  You have to hear a word before you will say it or write it. That’s why it’s important to read (and talk) to our children when they are young. The more words they hear, the greater their vocabulary and grasp of their language. The only way to become a good reader is to read!

Children who are read to will (hopefully) learn proper pronunciations of words. Those who read themselves will also learn proper spelling.  Plus, they will be able to entertain themselves for hours by playing and pretending as a result of the stories they have read.

Model reading for your children. You should be reading, too!

When our children see us not wanting to put down a book or an article in a magazine, they will think that reading is a fun thing to do. They should see us reading our Bible and other input from a spiritual level. Reading not only helps our kids learn to read and understand. It fosters companionship, comradery, and cohesiveness in a situation. I’ve used story time (as well as nap or quiet time) to diffuse tension. Just the other day, the two kids staying in our home got into a small tiff. They’re usually great playmates, but they’re kids, and they had a disagreement. It wasn’t anything big, but they were fretted with each other and I could tell it was time to take a break from the grouchiness before things escalated into greater conflict.

I said, “Hey, who wants to read a story?”

Instantly, they were at my side. By the time we completed the story (one snugged on each side of me), they had become friends again. We didn’t talk about their conflict. It simply dissipated as I turned page after page in the book and read to them out loud.

Provide books, stories, and adventures about stories.

Imagination, invention, and introspection are the results of good times of reading – not to mention increase of vocabulary, syntax, and spelling. Our children enjoyed choosing books at the local library. They also enjoyed acting out stories they enjoyed. Yours will, too, if you provide the interest and applause.

During travel, we provided stories on tape. I’m not giving out names, but one of my grown kids still borrows the Odyssey CDs when he is going to be doing a lot of traveling. Some great choices are listed here; you can click on the titles to order. Check out the Adventures in Odyssey series, and Paws and Tails.

As a mom, I continue to be amazed at how fifteen minutes in the middle of a busy day can calm a frustrated household. Remember the advertisements for how to get rid of gray hair? “Hate that gray? Wash it away!”

For your dreary, gloomy, gray-like days, consider this: “Hate that gray? Read it away!”

It works. Try it, and you’ll see.

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To order the book Jenny Wren’s New House, click here.

I highly recommend the teaching of Jim Trelease. His book The Read Aloud Handbook is an important part of my library.  Click here to purchase this book through Amazon.

[This post contains links through which I may or may not receive compensation through no additional cost to you.]

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