“Mom, pleeaasse read just one more chapter! Com’on, please,” I begged. And Mom would usually smile and read ten—or twenty minutes longer.
One of the most treasured and important memories from my childhood is my Mom reading to my siblings and me after lunch. Everyday I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next to my favorite character, while I’d be transported to another time or place by the power of Mom’s voice, as it became that character. When the chapter or time was up for the day, my siblings and I would often beg for more.
We read the childhood classics. The Little House books were a family staple, and the Secret Garden was my first gothic suspense novel. Cheaper by the Dozen had us laughing until our sides ached, and The Yearling—with its lush descriptions and heart-wrenching story—made us cry. These books were dubbed “family books,” and we continued to read aloud together even long after I was old enough to read on my own. Mom believed it was important to experience different language styles, even if it sometimes was a little challenging to comprehend. The power of the audible voice captured any wanderings of my mind, making the stories dance off the page and into my imagination.
The benefits from those cozy days curled up on the couch did not just result in better reading skills, lively imaginations, and a love literature and art. It also resulted in connected relationships.
My relationship with my mom was enriched and nurtured by the simple investment of reading out loud. Our daily read-aloud times were something I always looked forward to. It kept our relationship intact from elementary through the teen years, keeping the lines of communication open. Consistency was key. It served as an anchor in the day, something I could always count on if we were home. I was homeschooled, so reading aloud in the middle of the day was built into our school day. However, this consistency could easily be replicated in other family structures as an after dinner or bedtime routine.
Some other ways to create consistent connection might be:
- Weekly or monthly one-on-one outings for breakfast or a special treat like ice cream.
- Taking a walk or hike.
- Going for a bike ride.
- Going fishing together.
- Going on a camping/beach trip.
Reading out loud—even when I could read complicated stories for myself—created shared memories and a context for discussing deep and thought-provoking themes that various books brought up. From conversations about what it means to be a faithful friend in Charlotte’s Web to the nature of good and evil in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, reading together gave a platform to talk about things that matter. Whether it’s the theme of kindness in the face of adversity that A Little Princess presents to more the more adult themes of “playing God” with technology that Frankenstein portrays, reading books together creates an atmosphere for discussion. And of course, the complexities of faith can be discussed in such classics as The Chronicles of Narnia and Little Pilgrim’s Progress.
Even if you don’t want to read out loud, other alternatives that might foster this kind of deep discussion might be:
- Listening to an audiobook together on a car trip.
- Watching a thought-provoking movie or documentary (with snacks!) and discussing it afterwards.
- Talking about current events.
- Taking a trip to a museum.
- Doing a Bible study together.
The family tradition of reading together daily created a strong family bond and nurtured our connections from the board book to high school days. It created an opportunity for thoughtful discussion. It also was a good fun!
And that is why I pull out our current read aloud, Beverly Cleary’s Henry and the Clubhouse, pile the kids on the couch and read away.
How do you stay connected to your kids as they grow up? Or what did your parents do to stay connected with you?
Reading Resources to get your family started on your own reading adventure:
The Read Aloud Revival podcast
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
Books Children Love: A Guide to the Best Children’s Literature by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson and Susan Schaeffer Macauley
Danielle Ayers Jones has been a contributing writer for the online magazine, Ungrind, and has written for Thriving Family, Clubhouse, Jr., Radiant, and Relevant. She also combines her love of writing and photography on her blog, www.danielleayersjones.com. It’s a space where she seeks to find beauty in everyday places, joy in hardship, and encouragement in unexpected places. Danielle currently lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. You can follow her on Twitter @daniajones.