Reading to my kids is one of my favorite activities. My dad read to us every night until about middle school age, when we started to get too busy with homework and other activities. Those are some amazing memories, cuddled up on either side of him listening to The Great Brain and The Hobbit and many more. My brother liked to play tricks on dad occasionally, which added to the fun. I remember when he took his socks off and untied dad’s shoes with his toes, so subtly that dad never noticed until he got up to put the book away. I hope our kids will have memories as good, although perhaps without the pranks.
Reading together builds vocabulary
Whether I am reading to small kids or big ones, reading exposes us to a wide variety of words that we might not use in everyday language. This helps to expand everyone’s vocabulary. I enjoy learning new words and I hope I have passed that enjoyment on. We all have fun with word play and puns, so the more words we know the more fun we can have. It’s also gratifying to be able to explain a concept to the youngsters using precise terms rather than simplifying for comprehension.
Reading together builds knowledge
It doesn’t matter whether you are reading board books or history, science or fairy tales, reading builds knowledge. Sure, books on a particular subject matter build knowledge of that subject. They also help build understanding of the world around us and how it all connects in interesting ways. What about fairy tales or novels? Depending on the stories, we learn about culture, history, human behavior, ethics, and more. We might even learn which authors we like and which we won’t bother to read again.
Reading together builds critical thinking
We like to talk about what we’re reading to help build critical thinking skills. We examine the storyline, discuss where we agree or disagree with the author or with the choices a character makes, talk about new knowledge since the publish date of the book, and critique the writing style of the author. We don’t do it all the time, but I make sure to comment on things that strike me occasionally, and the boys have learned to pipe up as well.
Since the big boys are both writing their own short stories now they are more interested in writing techniques. We have a good time talking about plot and foreshadowing and world building in the fiction we are reading. (Currently we are reading a lot of Mercedes Lackey’s work.) It’s great to see them dissecting the writing to see what works and what doesn’t, as well as comparing a fictional world to ours to get insights into what they might apply to real life.
Reading together builds family bonds
There are lots of ways in which reading aloud makes our family closer. We read together regularly, so they know they can count on it. We snuggle on our couch or on the bed while reading, and often the cats join us, too. We make sure each person has turn choosing the book to read, including me. We all love sharing a favorite book with the others, delighting in their joy of a new author or new world. It brings us together in a more subtle way as well, that of having common background knowledge. We can reference ideas, plots, jokes, and more, a family culture that we share with each other.
My favorite way that reading together makes our family closer, though, is very simple. When we’re reading a good book we are having fun together. We are brought closer through shared enjoyment, a bond I hope to foster for many years to come.