Reading to your kids has been established as one of the biggest predictors of future success. Reading exposes them to words, to concepts, ideas and patterns; It teaches compassion. It expands their minds.
But aside from all the academic benefits to reading, it’s also an also an opportunity for deep connection. Think about it: you are sitting together, probably cuddling, maybe your child has chosen the book and looks to you with anticipation, or it’s one you have chosen and are excited to share. Both of your minds are open as you experience the story together. You laugh at the silly parts. You feel sad together if something sad happens. You experience it together.
It’s important to go slow.
I caught myself a while back reading a book at the end of the day. I was tired and ready to sleep. I didn’t particularly want to be reading. But I realized I was running a little out of breath because I was reading so fast. The words were blending together. I would get distracted and lose my place, barely remembering what had just been happening in the story. I was just trying to get to the end of it.
Reading is fantastic, but reading while engaged is better. I vowed to myself from that moment forward to read slowly. Even if you read less, reading while present, while fully experiencing that moment with your kids is totally worth it. And when you slow down, you’ll notice something: your kids focus harder on the story. You imbue the story with importance. When you give it to them at a speed that they can process, they really soak it in.
Now, I pause and take a breath between sentences. That’s what commas are for, after all, right? It’s one of those little spaces where we can take an opportunity to breathe. I wait after something big or pivotal happens and turn to them to see or hear their reaction. I’m careful not to interrupt the flow of the story, though. Talking about what happened or how they felt about it is best left for when the book or chapter is finished. You don’t want to break the magic.
Reading is playful.
Most of the reading you are doing with your child is literally from the land of pretend. This is a land that children inhabit naturally. As adults, it can feel more awkward to let go and fully immerse ourselves. Hearing “Once Upon A Time” is the signature key to unlocking our minds from what we expect, what is ‘practical’ and opening the door into the creative. Don’t be afraid to have fun; make the characters have different voices; read the book in the mood it’s written: is it spooky? silly? sad? When I let myself get really into reading a story to my kids, the rewards are innumerable – the best of which is the sparkle in their eyes. It’s contagious.
Reading is an opportunity to demonstrate mindfulness.
The most powerful impact we make on our children is in the example of the way we choose to live our lives. Choosing to slow down, to breathe, to take in these rich moments (made rich by our connection and presence in them, not because they are a particularly ‘important’ moments); THIS is how we teach them mindfulness. This is how we teach them to feel the beauty in simple pleasures; in connection with each other; in listening; in simply being together.
So, whether you are reading Goodnight, Moon, or Dragons Love Tacos, or The Boxcar Children, read it slowly, read it like it is important and snuggle in close because these will be some of your and your child’s fondest memories.