When I was four years old, I amazed my Pre-K teacher by flawlessly reading aloud Are You my Mother? by P.D. Eastman. Not only did I read every word correctly, but I had appropriate inflection in my voice. Child prodigy? Um…actually, no. My mom had read that book to me so many times that I had each page memorized.
I love to read. I can’t remember not loving to read. I love nothing better than sitting in a comfy chair, drinking coffee or tea, and reading a book. And the shelves around our house and in all the bedrooms? Well, let’s just say we might have the inventory to open our own library. We’ve all dabbled in eReaders and sometimes use them for convenience, but most of us still prefer flipping the pages of a REAL book.
Recently, on our family vacation, I was struck by the generational influence of reading. My love affair with books started, I now realize, because I have a mother who loves to read. She loves to read because she, too, had a mother who loved to read. And now my kids love to read. All of them read for a few hours each day of our vacation. We were passing books around (The Rosie Project, Unbroken, and The Storied Life of AJ Fikry were favorites) and talking about them with one another. It was so much fun having my very own home-grown book club with my teenage daughters!
When my kids were little, the thing I most looked forward to was lying next to them in bed and reading before they went to sleep. When they were young, we read a picture book or two, then as they got older, we ventured into chapter books. I especially loved re-reading some of my childhood favorites (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit, James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web, The Phantom Tollbooth). I treasure my memories of that time.
These days, I get to occasionally read to my 11-year-old when he’s not too caught up in his own book (currently he’s reading his way through the Redwall series). Often, he reads on his own, but together we’re about half-way through a book we started this fall. The read-aloud years, sadly, are waning. But I now see that all that reading with our kids is what made them the booklovers they are today. And loving to read is a marvelous gift; sure, it’s important for academic success, but more valuable is the way reading expands our minds and dreams. To me, reading is a magic that enhances life.
When I was a new parent, I read Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook. I listed it as one of the 15 books that most influenced my parenting style. Trelease reinforced what I already knew intuitively: read to your kids from the minute they’re born. Start reading those words and letting them see those pictures, and your kids get drawn into the magic of a book. And that magic is a gift they’ll carry with them throughout their lives.
Even if you haven’t been reading with your kids already, it’s never too late! Start with the read-aloud suggestions below. Or, pick a book that you remember loving as a kid, and I guarantee you’ll love it even more as you read it to your children. Make it a habit every day and part of your bedtime ritual, and that time of connecting—through the magic of a book—will become a meaningful tradition with a positive, lasting impact on your child.
Chapter Book Ideas:
20 Chapter Books to Read Aloud with Your Kids
Best Read-Aloud Chapter Books (Good Reads)
Great Read-Alouds for All Ages (Madison Library)
101 Chapter Books to Read (or Hear) Before you Grow Up (feels like home blog)
Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook
Report: Requiring kindergartners to read – as common core does – may harm some (Washington Post)
My comment: Just read books to those sweet kids, and they’ll pick up reading in their own time. Don’t force it!
The Children’s Reading Foundation
The Hidden Benefits of Reading Aloud