Be a Little Better Today, Read to Your Kids Tonight

April 22, 2015

Dear Parents,

Our young kids have a favor to ask us.  They want us to read books to them.  They may not have actually asked you, but they want you to do it, whether they realize it or not.  Those of you who already do this on a regular basis may quit reading now.  The rest of you, please take a moment and continue.

I’m not writing this to rant or preach.  I understand how hard it can be to read to your child(ren).  When my eleven year old son (and only child at the time) was young, I was great about reading him stories every single night.  He loved it, although I may have actually enjoyed it more than he did.  I was proud of myself.  “I’m pretty damn good at this,” I recall thinking.  Sucker.  Yep, with only one young child, life is pretty easy.  Finding the time to read to them is no problem.

However, when you have multiple kids, and the older ones start school and begin to have after school or evening activities, the game totally changes.  Many nights you will find that you had to go straight from work to the little league game, and you didn’t eat dinner (which was fast food, by the way, and now you feel like crap) until after 8:00, and you have more than one bath to give, and the clothes in the washer didn’t get put in the dryer, and lunches still need to be made for school tomorrow, and you need to pay some bills, and you have an early meeting the next morning, and your oldest kid just remembered he needs help with homework (this probably includes needing to go buy materials for some science project due the next day), and dammit you are tired and just want to chill out for a minute…!  I know, it’s so much easier to just put the kids to bed (oh, and let them watch something on their iPad as they fall asleep), but it’s not the best thing to do.  I also know we can’t always be our best, but we can always aim to be better, right?  Can we be better for ten more minutes each day?

My daughter just started kindergarten, yet has already been cheated out of literally hundreds of bedtime stories because my wife and I are busier (and admittedly lazier) than we were when her brother was her age.  As a result, whenever I have tried to read to her over the past year or so, my daughter’s typical response is, “Hmm, let’s just watch a show on TV.”  I hate this!  My son couldn’t wait for me to read him stories, but my daughter would much rather watch a Wizards of Waverly Place rerun (actually, she would prefer to watch Parks and Rec or The Office — a result of more poor parenting…).  Unfortunately, I usually give in to her request for television, despite knowing that it is a disservice to both of us.

There are numerous studies that show the many benefits associated with reading to your kids. Here are just a few:

  • Language development, including pronunciation, speech patterns and intonation
  • Increased visual and auditory sensation
  • Better memorization skills
  • Letter and word recognition
  • Increased future desire and capacity for learning
  • Better grades and higher rates of college graduation
  • Development of a lifelong love of reading

These benefits speak for themselves, but they are not my purpose for writing.  When you read to your child, you are giving your full attention to them.  Ask yourself how often you honestly do that?  This is real bonding.  You can cuddle up, laugh and be silly, and even cry.  A good book can take you and your kid on adventures that aren’t possible through television.

Since having become a stay-at-home dad, one of my priorities has been to read to my daughter daily.  It is something I insist on doing, and I’m so glad I am.  She no longer asks to watch TV instead of reading — she is now more likely to ask for two books instead of one.  Sometimes the books are great, sometimes they frankly aren’t very good.  Regardless, the time spent together is enjoyable to both of us.  This is quality time that won’t be available for long, so I’m going to take advantage of it while I can.

If you are not reading to your child, I challenge you to give up ten minutes a day, six days a week.  I’m not suggesting you tackle a novel every night, just read for ten minutes, and take a day off each week (if you think you need it).  Give it a shot.  I think you’ll be glad you did.  I know your child will thank you — if not now, someday.


A Parent Like You


2 Responses to “Be a Little Better Today, Read to Your Kids Tonight”

  1. Debi Says:

    Believe it or not, I was still reading to my youngest daughter when she was 15!!! (She read plenty on her own, too, but we read some novels together and it was really special. I guess neither one of us wanted to give it up) Good going, dad, the reading will be something you will both remember for many years!

    A also made up stories (crabby old lady stories) when she and I were on road trips. She is now 22 years old and we went on a few hour trip 2 weeks ago. When we had been riding perhaps 2 hours she turned to me and said, “Hey, Mom, how about telling me a crabby old lady story?” It has been years….lolol

  2. Debi Says:

    Oops, that is “I also made up stories”. Gee, it’s late, can’t type!

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