“Do I read to my kids for their sake? No, I’m not that good of a dad. I read to them because it is fun.”
I almost get tired of all the articles about the benefits of reading to your children or of encouraging your children to read. Every time I see one I think, “Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t already know this or not already believe this?” I don’t think I could find anyone I know who wouldn’t quickly agree to this. So why all the articles and all the encouraging posters? The very fact that I am a reader gives me the answer: reading has brought me to the understanding that my world experience isn’t everyone’s world experience. Even though I don’t know any I’m sure there are parents who don’t read to their children and children who aren’t encouraged to read.
I read to my kids when they were young. This wasn’t because I had a plan to make my kids superior in some way. It was simply because it was so much fun. What’s better than reading a good book? Reading a good book with someone else! That’s why I still read to my kids even though they are reading circles around me. It’s funny, really. They have a stack of books by their beds they are working through, yet they still ask me to come to their rooms each night and read to them a book I have chosen. I think it’s more about the togetherness than the book, and yet the book is the warm fire we sit by on a cold night. Right now I am reading Moon Over Manifest to Glory, Farmer in the Sky to Jory, and The White Stag to Story.
I can’t read to each child every night. Sometimes I don’t read to any of them because we (usually me) are just too tired. Still, we work through the books and then have fun deciding on the next one. One of the worst things about a child growing up and leaving the home is losing someone to read to. I heard Neil Gaiman, whose wife is expecting, answer the question “What do you look forward to most about your new child?” His answer, after just a moment’s thought, was “Thirteen more years of reading to one of my children.”
All eight of my children are readers. I really can’t tell how much of that is due to my influence. I don’t remember my parents reading to me. I do remember observing them read books, and my dad was a fantastic storyteller. What I do know is that reading with my children has enriched my life immeasurably. The shared memory of so many wonderful books is something warm and vibrant that connects us long after they have left home to live their own lives.