It can be hard to find time to really connect with our children. Family life is busy at the best of times. Squeeze in work schedules and a few extra curricula activities and life can quickly move from busy to frantic. How can we manage to juggle all of our commitments and still find time to connect meaningfully with our children? I have a secret weapon to offer. Reading with your children.
Reading together provides a powerful bonding experience between parents and child. As Mem Fox explains in her book Reading Magic,
“The time spent reading together provides clear evidence to a child of a parent’s love, care, and focused attention. And it gives the parent a chance to close off the rest of the world, relax, and connect with the child wonderfully.”
The benefits of reading with your children
There are many other benefits to reading with your children. It
- Encourages children to become readers
- Stimulates the imagination
- Increases vocabulary
- Prepares the brain for language and encourages language development
- Builds a child’s listening skills and attention span
- Helps foster children’s natural curiosity
- Expands children’s horizons
- Is a calming and relaxing activity
Just think you can enjoy all these benefits AND connect with your children just by reading together. All it takes is some time – it can be as little as fifteen minutes a day- to read together, talk to each other, and connect.
Reading with preschoolers
Most preschoolers love books and are only too happy to hop on a parent’s lap for a story. There are so many wonderful pictures books to explore. Take your time with the stories, look at the pictures, and talk about them with your child. Be prepared to read the same story over and over and over again. I read Eric Carle’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar so many times I can still recite it off by heart. Use your voice to make the words come alive. Encourage your child to join in if there are phrases that are repeated over and over. At this age a read-aloud session can happen anytime, but reading can become a natural part of your bedtime ritual.
If you feel a little intimidated about reading aloud, remember that children love stories and they want to spend time with you. They will not judge your performance. Mem Fox has some wonderful reading aloud tips on her website.
Reading with school age children
Don’t stop reading with your children once they can read for themselves. The fun is only just beginning! It is beneficial to keep reading with your children for as long as they will let you. There are so many wonderful stories out there and you get to enjoy them all with your children. Again this kind of reading can happen anytime, but is particularly beneficial at bedtime. In our family I would read one chapter every night, but of course I was always open to requests for one more chapter, maybe two. It became a bedtime tradition. I would encourage you to talk about the books you are reading. Invite the children to guess what will happen next. Talk about any problems the characters are facing and ask, “What would you do?”
Reading with older children
There will come a time when your children don’t really want you to read to them anymore. At this point you can switch to a read alongside your children approach. Take an interest in the books your children are reading and invite them to talk about them. You can ask questions like
- What are you reading?
- What’s it about?
- What do you like about it?
And let the conversation go from there. One of my most precious memories is sitting in the kitchen as my oldest son excitedly explained the game of Quidditch to me. The first Harry Potter book had just been published and my son was completely captivated by the Hogwarts world. He wanted to tell me all about it and it was a wonderful conversation! I believe that the time we had spent reading together throughout his childhood let him know that I wanted to hear about this wonderful book he had discovered. I would also encourage you to read some of the books your children are reading, so that you can engage in conversation about the book.
Reading with adult children
I always enjoy talking to my grown children about the books they are reading. They have introduced me to some amazing reads and if ever I find our conversation lagging I will ask them what they are reading and talk about it with them.
Parent-child book club
“My favorite Christmas gift came from my daughter. She recognized that I didn’t want “stuff” and she knew that what I really wanted was more time with her. She gave me a mother-daughter book club. We read a book and then plan an activity like going out to lunch to talk about it. We recently read The Great Gatsby and finished by going to dinner and seeing the movie.”
What a wonderful idea and what a lovely way to connect with your adult children.
Reading together provides a family with shared experiences and a reserve of common knowledge from which to draw. It is one of the simplest ways to connect with your children and is well worth the investment of time. Go find a book and read with your children today.
Now it’s Your Turn
I hope to start posting book recommendations regularly. But first I would love to hear from you. What books do/did your children enjoy? Did your parents read to you when you were a child? Which books were your favorites? What books would be on your “Must Have” list for parents?
Need More Ideas?
“While my daughter and I are deep into the Little House on the Prairies series, what I love is how connected we are at the end of the day during reading — she snuggles up while taking in half pint’s adventures and/or brushes and braids my hair. She asks me questions about pioneer life and we may slip into more talk about her day. Clearly the books are a gateway to connecting.” Astir Van Den Broek