I was asked in the comments section if it is important to read stories to children. The answer to that question is so broad that trying to tackle it in one shot is impossible, so I would like to approach the subject in a general way for now and otherwise make “The Importance of Reading” a category of posts.
In general, I believe that reading to, and later reading with children is the most important thing a parent can do to increase a child’s abilities regarding language, imagination, attention, critical thinking, memory, speech, vocabulary, writing, patience, history, religion, science, and even math– I’m sure I’ve left some out. In fact, I would venture to state that any parent who does not read to their toddler and later who does not sit and listen to their child read is neglecting the kids’ intellectual development just as surely as not feeding a child would be neglecting his/her physical development, and as such should be considered to be a crime.
Above all of that though, reading time with the kids is the one sure moment during a day when parents and children can sit calmly together, quietly, sharing something that they can both enjoy. There is a reason that for millennia people have told stories—they are part of the social fabric that holds us together, whether we are creating them for each other, recounting them as best we remember them, or reading them from a book. Stories bind us together , bring us closer, help us understand one another and give us a common experience that we can remember, can refer to in discussion, can relive, and can look forward to experiencing again. Anyone who reads to their children knows that kids will almost never forget story time, regardless of when it is during the day—not because the stories are so engaging, especially compared to the television or the computer—but because for 15 minutes, the kids get to hear Mom or Dad’s voice (other than the constant nagging we generally subject them to), and get to rest an arm on the warm body of one of their parents, and get to share something that they can later say “Hey, remember when….” about.
It’s one of the things that I think we usually don’t understand. How many times have you remarked or heard people remark that a child only wants to hear one story, over and over again. It’s not the story that they’re trying to relive, it’s the experience of hearing an adult read it to them. Something magical, for them, happened one time when that story was read, and they want it to happen again. They do it with lots of things—for my daughter, it’s playing “Patty Cake” when she gets her diaper changed, and for my son, it’s sharing a bottle of water when we go to the grocery store together. They use those things, as they use story time, as affirmations that they are loved and that everything is good in the world.
In and of themselves, stories and the reading of them to children are important. If you’re not already doing it, start reading to the kids today. Not only will you begin to strengthen their intellectual abilities, you’ll share the time with them that they need to feel connected to you, and you’ll build a stronger connection with them yourself.
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