The Habit Worth Pursuing with Our Kids
What one thing can: help your child become an expert in nearly anything and encourage character, creativity and focus? You can do this activity snuggled under a cozy blanket. It will expand your world and can be a constant companion… It’s reading with your kids! While as a parent I’ve made many mistakes, reading with my kids is one thing I’ve gotten right and has reaped so many rewards for our family.
Our family’s early reading years were spent devouring A.A. Milne, and Beatrix Potter’s books. My young kids loved the plots and were subtly introduced to wonderful vocabulary such as: ambush, sophoric, and the fact that it’s acceptable to make up your own words when the perfect one doesn’t exist, like: ‘pooh sticks.’
While young minds wrap themselves around the fact that life can be tough, how amazing is it for them to dive into the inner thoughts of champions of adversity, such as: Laura Ingalls Wilder, as her family endures trials of early pioneer life, or Helen Keller who being blind, deaf and desperate to communicate, overcomes those obstacles with her teacher’s help.
Our world and history comprehension magically expanded through reading. The Viking Quest series transported my kids and I to Ireland and Norway. How I LOVED to hear, “One more chapter please?” as the riveting chapters kept us eager to know what happened next. Across Five Aprils introduced us to people on all sides of the civil war. At lunch, we noticed our Newman’s Own bottle of Caesar dressing had a cartoon picture with the quote, “Don’t dilute us, Brutus”. Because we had read Genevieve Foster’s Augustus Caesar’s World, we understood the pun and recognized that knowledge can even make life more humerous.
Nature becomes so full of possibilities and adventure after reading My Side of the Mountain, where 12 year-old Sam Gribley lives alone in nature and learns how to use flint and steel, carves out a tree house to live in and eats acorn pancakes and other wild sustenance. Learning to use flint and steel became a favorite pastime of my kids after that book.
How thankful we’ve been the many times we’ve identified with characters, who gave us the insight we need for growth. My older daughter recognized through Hetty, in Caddy Woodlawn, how other’s feel about someone who is prone to tattling. Call it Courage helped my son who battled anxiety to not feel alone and spurred him on to many brave acts. We all identify with Eustace in Narnia The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, who needed some of his ‘rough patches’ in his personality painfully removed. It is a comfort to witness others going through the process, and see them come out on the other side greatly changed.
While two of my three kids are old enough to read entirely on their own, we still try to carve out time to have a book we can all read together. It doesn’t always happen everyday, since our schedules pull us in different directions, but when we do there is nothing like that feeling of closeness. My son loves to tell me what he’s learning in his own books (free, unassigned book report! Yay). He told me last week he’s going to work on not taking things for granted, after reading Lost Boy by Tim Green.
Perhaps your winters are conducive to snuggling up on the couch with a great read aloud book. As my kids get closer to the launching phase, reading with them is one of those investments worth every minute. The closeness, common bond and growth it’s generated I’m hoping will help my kids to overlook all of the recipes I didn’t follow, and various other imperfect parenting moments.