How often do you have an opportunity to read to a child, or with a tween? Once a month? Every night? Personally, if I don’t have that one-on-one time often, I feel cheated.
There is so much to enjoy when reading with a young person. Aside from the fun or adventure of a new story, there is the closeness afforded in the sharing of your time. And, if it’s a bedtime story you’re sharing, there may also be lots of giggles and cuddles. Reading with a child is therapeutic to both the reader and the listener.
I’ve been reading to children for over forty years. When I was still a teenager, my parents fostered children for the state of Missouri. They fostered children under the age of two years, and my mother often asked me to read to the little ones. At the time, I felt it was almost a form of punishment to be forced to read picture books. But I soon found that I loved the rhythm and cadence of the words, and saw how they could soothe a fussy little one who had been separated from home and family. I had no idea back then of the impact reading to such young children could make. I did realize that they enjoyed looking at the pictures and hearing the sound of my voice. I’m still not sure who benefited more from the experience, but it didn’t take long for me to get over feeling that it was a chore.
Later, when I had two girls of my own and my husband and I had fostered kids of all ages, we became house parents to teenage girls at a children’s home. It interested me to note which girls enjoyed reading, and what their reading preferences were. It led me to believe there was a correlation between the time the girls had been read to from a young age, and to their reading enjoyment as they grew. It seemed to me that the girls who had come from more stable homes had a higher propensity for reading for pleasure than did the girls whose homes had been more unstable. That may be faulty reasoning on my part, however, because I have always loved reading and my sister rarely picks up a book, and we grew up in the same household.
But I firmly believe that books should be a daily part of a child’s life. It’s hard to beat the nightly ritual of a bedtime story. A quiet book often is the best choice, because it allows the child to relax as they listen to the sound of your quiet reading. Once in a while, however, we like to mix it up and find something lively or just a wee bit frightening to add a bit more fun. I usually reserve these choices for Friday night, although I’ve heard much hilarity going on when Grandpa stands in for me from time to time.
It isn’t just the little ones who benefit from being read to, however. I still read to my son, although he is beginning to think he’s grown too old for that. I tell him he may be outgrowing it, but I still need that time for just the two of us. Sometimes the entire family piles onto our bed and I read to the bunch of them. Those times are the best.
I hope if you aren’t reading aloud to someone on a regular basis, that my post will help you think about doing so. If you have no children of your own, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer your time and talent at a local school or library. I’ve even been known to read aloud on bus trips. It’s surprising how many people will take the time to listen to a picture book if given the opportunity!