When I think about what made my life easier as a young mother, one of the first things that comes to mind is books. When my daughter was fussy or wired, she would settle down with a book. When we were feeling out of ideas about how to spend our time, we’d go to the library or the bookstore. When she had a question about a new idea or topic, we’d find a book about it.
March is Read Aloud Month, which gives me a great platform to share a belief that I hold dear: You’re never too young, or too old, to have someone read to you.
I remember holding my newborn baby as I read to her in the rocking chair. For a long time she showed no interest whatsoever in the book itself, but we did it anyway and it felt nice. Even though she didn’t understand the words at first, we were bonding and I knew instinctively that it was good for her in lots of ways.
Over the years, I have gained more knowledge about just exactly how it was good for her. Reach Out and Read, an organization that helps pediatricians across the country share books and reading support during office visits, points out the following:
Read Aloud, a national nonprofit that promotes early literacy interactions, says, “reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.”
So clearly, reading aloud to your young child is a good thing to do. Perhaps not so obvious is that reading aloud is still a good thing to do when your child is older and perfectly capable of reading on his or her own.
Our daughter loves to listen to audiobooks, and over the years this fact has saved more than one car trip from being a miserable experience. But sometimes she still asks one of us to read to her, and we usually comply. What I’ve noticed is that being read to allows her to decompress in a way that is very different than reading by herself.
When I or my husband read to her, one of two things usually happens: 1. She gets really creative, becoming totally engrossed in some project she has set up for herself; or 2. She becomes meditative, with no distractions other than perhaps watching the wind blow through the trees outside the window.
I have a friend who still reads to her fifth-grade daughter every night, and her experience has been similar. But perhaps the most appealing benefit, at least to me, is the fact that reading becomes a shared experience, a big kid version of the bonding that happened when we read to her as a small child.
I love this story of the dad who read to his daughter every night from 4th grade until she went to college. They ended each day with a bonding time based on books, and it meant so much to her that she wrote a book about it. Now that she is out on her own, he continues the tradition by reading aloud to senior citizens at a retirement home, and from the looks of this video, they are loving it. Further proof that the joy of reading aloud knows no age limit.
I encourage you to keep reading aloud in your routine even as your kids get older, and to look for ways to incorporate books into your time together. We are lucky, here in Mesa County, to have such a vibrant library system, with eight branches and events just about every day of the week. Learn more about our library here.
The benefits go both ways. Whether it’s with your child or your grandma, celebrate Read Aloud Month with someone you love.
Sarah Johnson is a mother and coordinator of The Parenting Place. She is also a member of the Healthy Mesa County parenting action team. Read her every other Thursday on HealthyMesaCounty.org.