Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Reading Is Not Just for Moms

One day a mom came into my library a little hoarse. "Have you got a cold?" Emily asked sympathetically. "No, I've just been reading to my kids for eight hours. They wouldn't let me quit."

She was not complaining. That same mom recently mourned to me that her children read independently, but she can't give up reading something aloud to them every day. There's no reason she should not.

There's no reason for any family to ever stop reading aloud together. There are lots of reasons why they  should. Have you ever made a list of all the things your family does in a week? Where does reading together fit in.

Most families today don't do very much together at all. When reading books of days gone by, it is interesting to note how many evenings were spent together with reading as the mutual entertainment.

Reading together is a unique bond. First of all, it is like having a host of friends and experiences in common. Many of our family jokes are from hilarious moments within stories we have read together. I have written before about how we were reading on the way to church one Sunday, finishing a poignant story, wiping the tears as we got out of the car and the concern our friends had that something was wrong. Not at all, just a good book. My children who have families of their own still reference various memories we all have, still  remember where we were reading when we traveled somewhere together, shared certain adventures together through a book.

Over the years I have observed how readily children take to being read to, even those who are avid  independent readers. Often we pass the book around the room and take turns. However, I also have noticed that children especially enjoy reading together when Dad is the reader. Many dads have to take special coaxing, feel inadequate to read well, or think they don't enjoy it. Those who try, find great rewards. Truly children are the most patient, uncritical, and forgiving listeners in the world, and especially so when father is  doing the reading. I have observed fathers read haltingly, monotonously, while their children respectfully listen with rapt attention.

Think of the precedent this sets, not just for boys either, because all children need his leadership. Though I've said many times that the key to interesting your children in literature is to read to them, fathers who read secure this result most effectively. Somehow even the roughest day becomes serene when dad picks up some book and his voice begins. Long after they have grown and gone, that voice will have permanently marked the heart and mind of the children he took time to read to when they were at home. Considering the doleful statistics that most fathers spend less than four minutes a day with their children, and speak to them less than a minute a day, reading aloud has a tremendous impact. Its value cannot be estimated. The book
solves the "what to talk about," problem.

Even fathers who dislike reading and never pick up a book find themselves as anxious as the kids to continue when a great book is at hand. It doesn't take too much encouragement once dad has entered into Kildee House, or Little Britches, or Robin Hood.

Bearing all these things in mind, imagine my delight to receive a note from a mother recently that included these personal details:

"So many things you write about on your blog are "spot on", truth, and beautiful. Many things you mention are so dear to our hearts in our own homes-reading, real, living books, must be kept alive for future generations. Children need their parents to read to them and to see their parents read. 
"I had been praying for a few years, that my wonderful, supportive, encouraging husband would start reading to the kids. I read all day to them. Since they literally were born, I read in the hospital to them, and have continued to this day. I am sure that is one of the top reasons our family is schooling our children at home, so that we have the time to read to them, and not feel rushed to go here and there. I read somewhere, that kids need to see their dads reading as well. So I mentioned it to my husband, then I prayed thousands of times for the Holy Spirit to guide him and show him, somehow, the importance of fathers reading to their children. One day, this fall, he mentioned that he wanted to read a family read aloud to the kids. He realized how important of a bonding time it would be with him and the family. I was jumping for joy inside! I think the first read aloud he did this year was The Winged Watchman, because my son is studying about the modern times for his world history. Now he is reading to us The Hobbit, which is so delightful in all of Tolkien's descriptive writing. We love that he is reading about 4-5 times per week to us. Of course, since I am the primary homeschool teacher of the family, I read all day, and I love it. I am grateful for a break, when my husband reads to the kids."

The benefits for dad is that it is relaxing, enjoyable, and the simplest and most lasting gift he can bless his family with. A friend shared this note with me about her husband and daughter which demonstrates this truth:

"He read out loud to our daughter for a few years ALL of the books I read to the boys: Narnia, etc... SO for a Christmas present one year, she gave him the list in her own handwriting: so pretty. It is a treasured time for them."

I encourage other fathers to dig for some of this treasure. How about Treasure Island, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Where the Red Fern Grows, The House of Sixty Fathers? This treasure of fathers reading to
their children is the kind that does not fade, never loses value, undoubtedly that which is laid up in heaven.

For the joy of reading,

Liz

4 comments:

  1. Last sentence being copied into my journal!

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    Replies
    1. Bonnie,

      Thank you for sharing your story of the treasure of Emma's list of book memories given back to her father.

      Liz

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  2. My husband has taken over the bedtime reading routine from me recently, and I feel the impact in the room when my kids settle down to listen to dad. It was hard giving up this last sweet reading time with them, but I'm glad I let him do it, since the kids get to hear dad read everyday now!

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  3. Sarah,
    Wonderful! I hope a whole generation of boys will grow up to read to their children. How much better the sound of Dad's voice than the drone of the television, and infinitely more beneficial to your children's development of imagination and attention.
    Liz

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