Last Thursday night, I sat down with my family to read a book called A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich. My daughters are in 6th and 7th grade and voracious readers. I’ve long since lost track of what they’re reading because they devour books with such enthusiasm that I can’t keep up. While I don’t need to spend time reading aloud to them, it still feels special. We try to read a chapter or two every night.
On this particular evening, we explored the history of ancient Egypt. The writing was lovely and lent itself to being read aloud. We discussed vocabulary like hieroglyphs, pharaohs, and irrigation. We talked about the Nile River and how it helped Egypt become a flourishing civilization. The chapter was about four pages long and all of this took about ten, maybe fifteen, minutes.
Why would I read to my kids when they’re fully capable of reading themselves? Creating a time to read with my family shows that we value reading. It shows my kids that in our family, reading is important, necessary, and worth our time. It also creates a moment of connection. We spend some uninterrupted time together - no T.V., no emails, or cell phone notifications. We feel closer when we finish. I might ask them some questions about the reading the next morning at breakfast just to encourage conversation and check for understanding.
Reading silently by oneself at times can feel like a chore for both parents and children, but a family read aloud can help overcome that feeling. If you have multiple children, you don’t have to sit and read with them each on their own. A 10 year old might gain something different than a toddler or a teenager from the same story, but rest assured, everyone gains.
So rather than setting a timer and sending a child off to read on his own, gather your children, build a fire, and brew some hot cocoa. Spend some time reading something that challenges and engages both your children and you.
In the wise words of C.S. Lewis, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Let your children marvel at beautiful language or interesting characters. Let them wonder about the people who built the pyramids thousands of years ago. Immerse them in the good, the beautiful, and the true.