One of the joys of being a parent is to read to your child. We begin with picture books and slowly move on to longer stories with and without pictures. We generally think of reading to little ones before they go to sleep. As they get older, they learn to read on their own but this shouldn't stop us from continuing to read to them. Children like to hear our voices, our intonations, the images we give to the characters from the way we read the words.
When Should We Stop Reading to Our Kids?
There is actually no time to stop reading to our children. Children in middle school still enjoy it when parents read to them out loud. It's mother's music to their stressed ears. There's also no reason to just read to them before bed. Read in the early morning if they're early risers. Read after school when they need down time. And read in the early evening. They are all good times to choose from to share a story.
Reading brings children and parents close together. It's a tie that binds. It's a time to share the characters feelings, intentions, and act out the dialogue with your voice. Children have been listening to their mother's voice since infancy, so why stop because they are older just because they can read for themselves? Listening is different than reading to yourself. It brings the listener closer to the reader.
When Should Your Child Read to You?
As soon as a child can read a few words, it's enjoyable to have your child read to you. It shouldn't feel like homework or a test or performance, but more like their way of relating to you. Reading is talking and the parent is the listener. Children will enjoy reading to you if you are an attentive, content listener.
How About Reading to Each Other?
You can also read to each other. Mother and child each take a page or a line or a paragraph. You create the story with the author's words, with your tones of voice, and with the vibrancy each of you give to the story line. It's a way of sharing and listening to each other. It's a way of giving and receiving. You will laugh together, get scared together, feel sad together, whatever emotion the story brings out in each of you.
When Do You Discuss the Book?
After you have read many books together, short ones, long ones, chapter books, novels, you can discuss them while doing other things together. Cook a food that is mentioned in the story and talk about the book. Go to a place mentioned in the book like a zoo or a beach and talk about the characters. You will want to read favorite books over and over.
Reading becomes part of your everyday life in so many shared ways that boost not only a love of literature but a warm tether that holds you and your child together.
Laurie Hollman, PhD, is a psychoanalyst who specializes in infant-parent, child, adolescent and adult psychotherapy. Her recent book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior, can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius, and wherever books are sold.