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Read To Them

January 12, 2020
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Research verifies over and over again that one of the best things a parent can do with their young children is to read to them.

If you have preschoolers, even very young preschoolers (as in they can’t talk yet), reading to them is a huge key to their healthy and steady development. There is a very complicated set of neurological events that take place in a baby’s brain when they’re read to, even before they understand language. If you’ve ever played with a picture book with your baby, you know that they like these things way more than you do. And the reason is their brain is developing at the speed of light as you read the one or two words per page, and show them the pictures.

If your kids are jabberwalkies (if they’re walking, they’re talking…), reading to them is also a huge boost to their brain development. Even if they’re not ready for big books and long stories, go ahead and read to them. They love simple stories. Most of the time when you finish one, they’ll beg you for more.

By the time your kids are 4 or 5, you can start reading things to them that even you will enjoy. I suggest reading stories to them. Bible stories are great for this. There are lots of Bible Story books available. You’ll find more than you have resources to buy in a quick Amazon search. The Bible itself is a fantastic resource for this. I suggest you use a version of the Bible that’s conversational, like The New Living Translation (NLT) or even The Message. At this point, I wouldn’t be very concerned with which translation is most accurate. Using a version of the Bible that they can understand is more important than word-for-word translation. And besides, if you did a literal word-for-word translation, it would be nearly impossible to understand. But that’s a whole other subject.

There are two objectives in this. First of all, you want to give your kids a distinct brain development and learning readiness advantage by reading to them, and second, you want to help your kids fall in love with the Bible by engaging your kids’ imagination with the fabulous stories that are found there.

The Bible doesn’t have to be the only book you read to them, though. There are thousands of wonderful books out there. Look for stories that teach values like honor, honesty, perseverance, kindness, courage and the spiritual traits you want your kids to have. Read books that are funny. Read stories about real-life events and heroes. Read biographies. Read books that are interesting to your kids, not just to you.

My wife and I are C.S. Lewis affectionados. So when our girls were in grace school, we began reading The Chronicles of Narnia to them. I say “we.” It was actually Debbie who did most of the reading. She’s got skills for making a story come alive, and our girls loved it. I highly recommend The Chronicles. The chapters are short, and the story is fantastic in all seven of them. Even if you and your kids have seen the movies that have been made of them, reading them is still superior.

As your kids get older, take turns and let them read to you. This is good in almost every way. Their teachers at school will thank you for it, and you’ll get a dividend when they can do a third of the three most important things in their school career: read well. (If you’re wondering, the other two are math skills and relating well to others.)

I do most of my reading on my Kindle app these days, but I think reading to/with kids from a physical book is better than using a digital device. More and more research is indicating that it’s not good for little eyes to be on electronic devices for many minutes a day. And in addition to this, there really is just something about feeling a book in your hands. One of the objectives in this deal is to give your kids a love of books. It could be done on an e-reader, but a physical ink-and-paper book is more tangible, and a kid’s concrete orientation helps make the hook of a book even more effective when they can turn the pages.

I think I’ve managed to make this harder than it actually is! Just get a book off the shelf that you think your kid would enjoy, and then read it to them. No rocket science here.

I do have to issue this warning, though. Reading to your kids will cost you
T I M E.

You’ll have to give something else up to do this. You can’t multi-task reading to your kids. If you’re not driving, you can do it in the car, unless they get motion sickness. Not a good idea then. When you have to wait for a doctor visit or some other appoint you’ve brought your kids with you to, if you don’t get too carried away, you can read to them. If you get too carried away, you may get, well, carried away. But most of the time, you’ll need to set aside time that would have gone to something else. My favorite thing to replace with reading is TV. To have a meaningful experience with this reading thing, you’ll need to turn off the TV. You’ll probably also need to put your mobile phone on silent and ignore it when it buzzes. You don’t have to enter the Cone of Silence, but you’ll want to mitigate as many interruptions as you can.

When your kids are little, you can combine cuddle time (some of the most developmentally important time you can have with your kids) and reading time. That’s a win/win.

Last thing I’ll write on this: schedule the time. It won’t present itself. You’ll have to MAKE time for it. So get your calendar up on your phone and plug it in. And then do it. The cost is small compared to the pay off.

From → Parenting

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