The family meal has proven to be – anecdotally, historically and scientifically…one of the formative events of our lives in developing healthy people and good relationships. Sitting down together, taking time together, sharing the stories of our day and our thoughts and opinions: this is good for family life.
Yes. sometimes it does include an out-of-control toddler. A sassy teenager, an outburst of emotions. But. Better that than the alternative – no family dinner. The family dinner is a time to gather. A time to share and provoke thought. It’s where we grow as people.
I’d like to make a bold claim.
Reading aloud together is as important as the family meal.
Why? It’s a place to nurture relationships, thought, understanding, knowledge, wonder, imagination. It’s a place to gather and a place to grow. It’s where ideas are explored, questions happen and opinions are formed.
Imagine doing all that together as a family.
When? Every. Single. Day. We read at breakfast and lunch together as a family. We’re already gathered so I’m just capitalizing on the gathering. We read at night to our kids. It’s a great wind down, and relationship builder. Really, until they want to read on their own, sometimes age ten, sometimes age fifteen. It’s remarkable to see two teen boys on a couch with their Dad reading adventure stories before bed.
Where? Everywhere. At the table, on the couch, in bed. Audio books in the car. Have bookshelves in every room. Read to yourself. Creating a reading culture in your home.
How? However you sound. Don’t worry if you aren’t a dramatic reader, or even a good reader. You’ll get better, trust me. Practice, (as the saying goes) makes perfect. I know this from personal experience. My husband wasn’t a reader when we met. He didn’t like reading (!?). But as we had more children, he needed to take over some of the reading in the house, particularly bedtime. He was uncomfortable at first, and, while not stumbling over words, his reading wasn’t lively. The kids didn’t care. They were wrapped up in the story in their Dad’s voice. 25 years later, he’s one of the best readers around. It comes. If you stumble reading aloud, just go slowly. If your own vocabulary is compromised, take the opportunity to look up words together. Keep an easy-peasy paperback dictionary beside where you read. Grow with your kids, show them how learning is done. Don’t apologize if your own education was lacking, but choose to educate yourself now. It’s a great tool for kids to understand what education is.
Who? Read to the whole family together. Don’t worry if the littles lose interest. They take in more than you realize. Read books that are more age-specific regularly, too. Snuggle with a toddler (the older ones will be leaning over the back of the couch…), read poetry to an older child (the littles will ask a bunch of questions about Emily Dickinson). Here are some resources for reading to the very young.
What? A very good question. How does a parent choose good literature for their children? Sometimes we don’t know where to start. There are many reading lists out there. I’ve written about that a bit…
And finally, an amazon store where I put it all together in one convenient place…
One of the many delightful firsts of parenthood is your little one toddling to you, favourite book in hand, to snuggle on your lap while you read and make animal sounds. A story comes alive; events, people and adventure jump out of the pages of beautiful literature and into our brains. Their brains.
And they are sharing it all with you.
We build relationships when we read.
You build memories when you read to someone. Memories build who we are.
We build people when we read.
I’d like to make one more bold statement.
If we are too busy to read to children, we are simply too busy.