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Reading Out Loud

Since I was a baby, my parents have read books to me. It started with classic chilldren’s books, like Goodnight, Moon and The Poky Little Puppy. Then, as I grew, so did the books — The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings series, and The Graveyard Book, to name a few. These stories nourished my creative brain and fed my soul, teaching me principles of the heart that I still carry with me to this day. Now that we’re older, my siblings and I read to each other all the time — I read them Howl’s Moving Castle, The Girl Who Could Fly, and am currently on book five of Harry Potter with them. The happy feeling I get seeing my siblings crowd around me for the next chapter is nothing like I've ever experienced before. To top it off, we are better, smarter, and more hard-working than we would have been without this family tradition, and I strongly believe this to be true for other children, too. 



           Reading is good for children’s brains. According to Child Mind Institute, reading provides key language skills they'll need to build their vocabulary and speech. When my read to me and my siblings, I remember my mind was like a little sponge — taking in every word, tasting it, then adding it to my mental list, eager to try them out in conversation. It also increased my thirst for new words, prompting me to seek out books to read on my own. I know that not every little one is the same, just as no brain is wired for the exact same thing. I have observed that in my preschool class. While their focus on words is varied, they have grown to love read-aloud time as much as I have. They particularly love a book called Animalia by Graeme Base (one of my childhood favorites), a story designed to teach the letters of the alphabet. You would not believe the clamor that erupts every time I turn the page — everyone is so eager to point out all the things they recognize on the pages, excitedly shouting what letter each item starts with. Their interest and focus on books is varied, but every one of them has fallen in love with learning thanks to patience and routine readings. No matter how hard it is, reading aloud brings nothing but good things to a growing mind. 

             

I've mentioned this in a few other articles, but another great benefit of reading aloud is learning about the world they live in, and how to live well in it. The power of good over evil, the importance of kindness, the dangers of sin — all these can be found in the great works of literature, told in a way that is hard to forget. Smaller, simpler books can also teach great things, such as the importance of obedience, sharing, and including others in the group. I can't count the number of times my siblings and I have thought, “What would my favorite character do?” If the answer is “the right thing” or even “the hard thing”, then you have picked the right book to read to your child. 



Here is a little cautionary tale, courtesy of yours truly: Be mindful of what your children are reading. Make sure that the message is uplifting, that the language is clean, and that it is free of things that are too vile and dark. This is something that places like school libraries cannot always be trusted with. As a grade schooler, I remember a few of my friends talking about a series called The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani. Thankfully, I didn’t pick it up during my younger years, but when I was a teen I decided to check it out. While I enjoyed it, I was a little horrified that this was on shelves dedicated to such young children. It contains violence, language, and truly terrifying creatures that, while not particularly frightening to me now, are absolutely not suited for grade schoolers. I’m not saying to micromanage every single piece of content your child consumes, of course. But what I am saying is that if what your child is reading makes them frightened or angry or sad, then you should probably point them towards something else. 


While keeping the previous point in mind, here is another trap to be wary of: Not everything you read to your child — or that they read themselves — has to be purely for educational purposes. It’s important for kids to have fun, especially to have fun around you, their beloved parent! As a girl, I loved fables and classic stories, but the amount of pure joy and adventure I derived from reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians (by Rick Riordan) are some of the happiest childhood memories I have. My mom supported me in loving this series, and even threw me a Percy Jackson themed party for my birthday. Since the book series had nothing bad in it, my mom could safely encourage my love for it, and I have never lost the zest for adventure those happy days gave me. 



              Finally, and most importantly, reading aloud can help you bond with your children. My dad and I are as close as we are because he started reading The Lord of the Rings to me. I looked forward to seeing him, and he looked forward to seeing me, because of how much we were enjoying our sessions of storytelling. This opened a gateway that allowed us to talk, play, and laugh more than we ever had before, and we’ve had a good relationship ever since. My little cousin, too, reads a lot with his dad. In fact, when anyone else tries to read him a bedtime story but his dad, he refuses, insisting it has to be him. Like me, they have developed a close bond that they would not have otherwise. Connecting with your child over a story you both love can provide a point of bonding in even the most difficult of situations. If you are struggling in that area, I recommend giving it a try. At the very least, you'll be exposing your child to some literature. 


There are countless ways to rock your kids, many of which I do not know. I am speaking only as a kid who has been rocked by the power of being read to. From birth I have had an affinity for words, and my parents did well by fostering and nurturing that affinity. Nurture your children by reading to them. Above all, it will give you a connection to your child that they will never forget. So read to the kiddos! If they’re anything like me, or every other child I know, they’ll thank you. 


             

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