Read to your kids

Posted on December 8, 2011 by

I recently ordered the first two books in the McGuffey’s Eclectic Reader collection, but I was surprised to find out that the series goes up to the high school level. Why on earth would you need readers for older children? Doesn’t everyone just read alone at that age?

Most parents view reading as a skill one learns, similar to addition or cooking. We agonize over phonics and breathe a sigh of relief once we’ve run the gauntlet and can pass the work of reading off to our individual children. Remember the great feeling you had the first time your child picked up a book and read it on his own? Finally, you have been freed from the evil Dr. Seuss!

But that focus can distract us from why we learn to read. We don’t learn to read because it’s a skill, but because the written word is a powerful form of communication. We learn to read so that we can take part in the Great Conversation; so that we can converse with other people — living and past — through their words. Reading, after all, used to be taught so that they could read the Bible. We also read because it expands our mind to new vocabulary and ideas that are difficult to transfer any other way. Visual speech is vague and imprecise, spoken speech is slow and inconvenient, but written speech is practical and exact.

So why do you stop reading to your child? Why is it that we segregate our families into individual conversations, rather than continuing with read-alouds into perpetuity? Is there some sort of law that says, “Thou shalt not read to your teenager?” This is your chance to influence your child’s mental conversation, parents! Yes, you can give them good reading material, but how much better it is to read through it with them, to savor every page together. How much better to turn it into a family experience, to bond through a discussion.

As the results come in and we see the declining literacy of our offspring, perhaps we should set the tone by making daily family reading — of the Bible, of the newspaper, of literature, of poetry, of nonfiction — a new tradition. You don’t have to be the one doing the reading, they can help out. The important point is to read together. Not only is it good for their vocabulary and their auditory processing, it’s good for their soul.

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