I am unashamedly into reading and take any opportunity I can to read to my grandchildren. It’s a great balance to the screens they gravitate to, a wonderful close time together and I get to use silly voices and stretch imaginations. Of all the ways you could indulge your children, I think this has got to be one of the best ways of all.
If you had to choose…
Have you ever played the game where you have to choose what to eat if you could only eat one type of food for the rest of your life? If I had to tell parents what to focus on if their choices were limited, I would say to read to their kids as much as possible. Here’s why.
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Three compelling reasons to read
1. It helps forge a strong relationship
The beauty of reading is that you get to have children sit in close proximity, like in your lap. You are also simply in their presence and the sound of your voice, plus the fact that you have slowed right down and are available to them, is a very powerful way of loving your children.
2. Children love routine, ritual and predictability
Knowing that every day offers a special reading time with a parent or chosen person is a settling show of unconditional love and attention that helps children feel safe and secure. That is why I recommend that parents not choose to remove such a sacred tradition as a consequence for behaviour.
3. It builds empathy in children
They get to explore the reasons why a character might be hurt or sad and can be invited to help work out problems and find solutions.
What’s in the way?
Sometimes what is on a screen is so compelling that children show more enthusiasm for spending time with technology than books. Parents can guide this and keep reading a stable part of family life, whilst including if they wish, time on a screen or tablet.
When children love reading, it does something wonderful for their learning. In 2002, OECD research reported that reading enjoyment is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status.
In my work as a parent educator with Parents as First Teachers, we found that when babies were read to consistently, they were so captured by the pictures, voice, rhythm and repetition that a story brings, that a natural engagement with reading took place. These young ones, even under two year olds, would spontaneously pick up a book and ‘read’ it if books were available to them.
How to help a reluctant reader
When a child is struggling to read, parents can unwittingly put more pressure on in their desire to help. One way to ease the tension is to simply spend more time reading to your child. If they are keen to join in, read a page each or leave the odd word out and see if they can guess what it is. When the atmosphere is relaxed and performing perfectly is not on the table, many children find their feet and begin to get some traction with reading.
What captures a love of reading?
I recently got to interview the Lietze family. Jamin is Principal of Myross Bush School in Invercargill and dad to four gorgeous children. Together with his wife, Jaimee, they’ve made reading a staple part of their family.
The Lietze children have had books read to them from the time they could sit up. The family culture is one where books are purchased as presents and the wider family also ‘indulge’ this option. The family visit the library pretty regularly on Saturday mornings and the kids love this routine.
Mum and dad have also noticed what books each child enjoys and have supported their natural learning by finding books they like based on their interests. Funny books are also included, lots of special voices are used, a few thoughtful questions are asked and both parents read for enjoyment as well. There are times for inventing stories and the children love guessing what Bible story their parents are retelling.
What is the most important thing?
Simply put – reading has to be an enjoyable experience. Keep it fun and keep doing it every day for as long as your children want you to – and then a bit longer than that!
Book a session with a Family Coach
Sometimes family life is way more challenging than we had ever imagined. We would like it to be a lot more enjoyable, if only we knew how. Family coaching is designed to meet you where you are at, whatever stage you are at on your parenting and relationship journey. We want to be on the journey with you. To find out more and to book a session, click here.