I sat down to start typing this while my three kids were awake - rookie mistake! I was all cozy on the couch (right next to one of our bookshelves) when suddenly I was being dive-bombed from all directions: "Can you read us a book?" "Can I pick it out?" "Can you read us a story pleeeease?"
I couldn't help smiling - my plan had worked!
As a lifelong bookworm myself, reading to my kids was one of the things I looked forward to most as a mom. And the more I looked into it, the more evidence I found that this wouldn't just be a fun pastime, but one that could help them for the rest of their lives. One of my favorite resources, Sarah Mackenzie from Read-Aloud Revival, clearly explains the benefits of reading with your children even from infancy:
- Adds order, routine, and bonding in your day
- Teaches understanding of motor skills, color, and sound recognition for babies and toddlers
- Increases vocabulary
- Makes children more empathetic and responsive to social and emotional cues
- Teaches understanding story structure
- Heightens imagination and problem-solving abilities
All of this got me excited, but especially in certain seasons, it seemed impossible to get all of the kids stationary and on board with the same book! Fortunately, the experts agree that even 10 minutes a day makes a difference.
An experienced mom once told me that reading out loud was the secret to fixing bad moods. So I tried it; the girls were squabbling over a toy, and I cheerily asked "Who wants to read?" Both of them said no, and it was a total failure. :) The next time I heard bickering, I didn't ask them if they wanted to read, or what book they wanted to pick out, I simply grabbed a book from the shelf, sat down on the couch by myself, and started reading it out loud. It was like MAGIC. All of the kids came over like magnets, quietly piled in around me, and the one book led to another, and another, and another! I wouldn't pass this tip on without being fairly confident, but it's been working to change the tone in our house for over a year now, and it works every single time. :)
We all know that reading to children is proven to help them throughout the rest of their academic careers, and I'm sure that's part of my motivation. But day to day, that's not what I'm thinking of. I'm thinking of how my 2-yr-old still wants to sit on my lap to listen even though he's rapidly outgrowing it. I'm thinking of how my 4-yr-old brings the books we're reading to life as she plays in the backyard. I'm thinking of how my 6-yr-old is joining the ranks of those who can read aloud now, and how it makes my heart burst with pride when I hear her sounding out words. I'm thinking that reading to them is one of the ways I love them, and how I hope that doesn't change for many, many years.
(My kids are reading books from Lucy Darling in the pictures! Gotta Go, Buffalo! has been a favorite for all of them when they were babies, now there is a bedtime version - Grab Your Pillow, Armadillo,and the All Aboard books are so fun for learning about different places!)