The thing that I love about books is their ability to calm a stormy day. The mesmerizing language of authors who have mastered their craft pulls in even the most reluctant listener. Even as I open a picture book that I intend to read to my littles, once I begin, it is inevitable that my biggest boy will curl up nearby to soak up the story. Maybe it is the closeness that sharing a book brings. We sit close. We share space. We snuggle. We listen. We laugh.
We hold our breath waiting to find out if Marty will get to keep Shiloh.
On the days when I feel like nothing is going as planned and everything is going awry, the one thing I know that can bring us back to our center is reading together. If the toddler is too fidgety, we listen to an audiobook, but we still share a story. We immerse ourselves in another world and somehow our brains and our bodies relax, our breathing slows and we are there. Present. Together.
When the days turn into weeks of chaos and questioning just how I can keep up with this crazy, grace-filled life, we return to the basics. It always includes lots of story-time, often only leaving home for a library visit, filling the bags to overflowing. It is a common occurrence for all eight of us to leave the library with 50 or so books. All to be savored in the week ahead. Some have been chosen by me with the idea of sparking some interest in a topic, but most of them are chosen “just” for the sake of reading. Everyone has their favorite authors, even the little girl who’s not yet two. They find them on the shelves and peruse the books on display, always willing to hear something new.
So when I question myself…Am I giving them enough? Educating them well? I just step back and look at what we have built together: a family culture around books. When I set out on this parenting gig, the one thing that I was absolutely clear on was that I wanted my children to love books, not reading, but books.
I have a few who are definitely capable of reading books independently, but they still prefer to be read to. When any one of them is sick, forget movies or tv shows. Give them a great audiobook and a warm bed. They’ll be there all day long. And even if they’re not sick, sometimes I have to remind them that the CD player has a pause button:)
Reading together is not just a single thread in our family tapestry. It is the weft and warp, the threads that intertwine with each other to create the beauty that is the tapestry.
The benefits of reading together are greater even than the quality time we share as a family. Hearing the language as fashoined by professional writers, our minds and our own language are permeated with it loveliness. We begin to articulate ourselves with greater clarity and grace.
Just the other day, my oldest two children were having a discussion about which would sound better when asking a question about the price of an event. “Will it cost money?” or “Will there be a cost?” We ended up having an interesting discussion about how there are many ways to say the same thing, but the words we choose can affect how they are perceived. I think that the fact that they were able to appreciate the subtlety of these differences is due in large part to the countless hours that we have spent reading together.
So I leave you with this. Reading together is a gift. Where in your day can carve out even 15 minutes to be together? It will be worth every second, and you may find that 15 minutes just isn’t enough:)
If you need more inspiration, check out The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma, and the series of podcasts, The Read Aloud Revival, by Sarah Mackenzie. They are all worth the time, but even if you can only listen to just one podcast, I bet you’ll be inspired to get reading!