I remember feeling wrapped in comfort, love and adventure sitting next to my father on the couch as he read aloud “The Story of Babar” by Jean de Brunhoff. As I snuggled into the crook of his arm, our busy household in the mid 1970s seemed a million miles away. As young parents, Mom and Dad knew the value of reading to their children.
As a young girl, with four brothers and one sister, I valued the time spent alone reading with my parents, not even realizing the greatness of the gift that they were bestowing upon me. I was not always an avid reader, but I always knew that reading was important and was the window to self-enjoyment, knowledge and success.
Today, Mom is so proud to say, “I always read to my children when they were young.” She says this as if it were one of the greatest, most impactful things she did as a mom, and I believe it was.
My life as a reader unfolded into a beautiful story. From my parents’ laps, to my days as an elementary teacher, to my own family’s couch, to Friday mornings reading to eager toddlers in my little bookshop, I know that reading to children is awesome.
When we read aloud to children, we let them know that we think reading is important. We wrap them in comfort, love and adventure. We entice them into wanting more and more and more. And as they reach for more, they are enjoying, learning and becoming readers themselves.
As a new second-grade teacher in the 1980s, it wasn’t long before I realized, if all else fails, gather the kids on the classroom rug and read to them. It was simple, the children quickly grew quiet and I knew in my heart that a rich read-aloud session with a group of 7-year-olds was better than a boring lesson from a workbook. Later, as a mother of five, I knew from my first reading of “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown with my firstborn that our family would spend a remarkable number of hours reading aloud to one another. Parents who read aloud frequently to their babies, toddlers and preschoolers will find their children ready for school – attentive listeners, knowledge seekers and book lovers.
Now, as the owner of a cozy little children’s bookshop, I feel grateful and honored to have sweet toddlers (I call them special readers) saunter into my shop each Friday morning, ready to read, sing and dance with Miss Kathy. Each special little reader is surprisingly attentive, and I love to see the sparkle in their eyes as I present our story for the day and ask each one of them to read the title with my “magic reading stick.” Reading aloud to children is pure magic.
A few years ago, I presented to Smallwood Drive Elementary School’s PTA on the benefits of reading aloud to children. I was eager to share my theory with other parents. To support my own conclusion, that reading aloud to kids will “raise a reader,” I did plenty of research. In fact, I found perhaps the most reassuring evidence. In 1986, the U.S. Department of Education’s Commission on Reading reported that, “The single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”
So, grown-ups, give the gift of reading aloud to the special little readers in your life. Wrap them in comfort, love and adventure. And thanks, Mom and Dad, for raising a reader. I love you!