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Reading to Small Children April 22, 2008

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Parenting/Children.
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Yesterday, I saw a mother reading a story from children’s book to her young son. This reminded me of the hours I spent (and a few I didn’t) reading to my sons.

There are many fond memories I have of my sons’ childhoods. Reading to them is near the top of that list.

Read, Read, Read

You’ve had a long day, and now you’re home and want a break. Work was frustrating and tiring, and home is where you kick up your feet and relax. Ah… the sweet bliss of home.

But there’s your son or daughter, begging for your attention, wanting you to read them a story. You’ve read the story so many times that you can almost recite it without looking at the pages. Making matters worse, half the time that you try to read to your child, they get bored and rush off to do something else. Here’s what you do:

You read to them anyway.

You read to them whenever they want you to, for as long as they want you to. You read to them at night before bedtime. You read street signs for them. You read the plaque at the aquarium or the zoo to tell them about the secret lives of exotic animals.

When you read a familiar story, you make it interesting for yourself and for them. If you have the ability, make up funny voices for the various characters in the book. If that’s not your style, try intentionally changing some of the story in a ridiculous and surprising way. For example:

…and that’s when Brother Bear and Sister Bear decided that they wanted to get boring desk jobs instead of working as professional piano jugglers.

You’ll be amazed at the things your child will notice.

Most importantly, even when you don’t want to read to them, you’ll remember that these days will be over soon. That in the wink of an eye, your son or daughter won’t need you to read to them anymore. All too soon, they’ll be just a little more independent than you expected, and will be reading things without you.

Who knows? Maybe one day, they’ll become a professional piano juggler like you always wanted to be.

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Comments»

1. tiffanytaylor - April 22, 2008

My kids and I love the Berenstain Bears books!

>>try intentionally changing some of the story in a ridiculous and surprising way >>

Recently my almost-13-year-old son, who devours novels and is particularly fond of books and movies that are scary, creepy, gross, or all three, decided that for a couple of nights he wanted me to read to him — something I haven’t done for at least a couple of years. I dug out a few favorites from his much younger days: a beatifully illustrated version of Rapunzel, a funny story about an old witch, and so on.

Now, I’ve always been one to throw in a silly plot twist, just to see if my kids were paying attention. And this time, with him being so much older and having such … interesting tastes in literature, I had a wonderful time. New characters with bizarre names entered the scene, with evil intent. Characters died unexpected and gruesome deaths. Any time I can make my almost-teen laugh that hard, I figure I’m doing something right. 🙂

2. Mad Scientist - April 23, 2008

That’s so strange. I was on the BART (public transportation out here in the San Francisco Bay area) yesterday and saw a guy with his daughter (she couldn’t have been 5), and she was all sorts of hyped up about reading. She’d point to ANYTHING that looked like it had symbols on it, and he’d read three words off to her at a time, then wait for her to recite them as he pointed to them. It really got me thinking about what being a parent is really all about (I have no children of my own, and have no plans to change that).

As for my own childhood, my parents read to me all the time. I can actually remember the 6th time my father read The Hobbit to me, and every time it was a little different from the time before. Now that I can appreciate just how bad my father’s voices for the characters were, I appreciate them even more.

3. Tim - April 23, 2008

Tiffany,

It sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right. That is very, very cool. 😀

Jesse,

I understand what you’re saying. For quite awhile, we didn’t want to have anything to do with children, or worse, hang out with people who did, because all they wanted to do is talk about their kids. Funny how things change, because not long after that, it seemed like a great idea.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that becoming a Dad (someone reminded me that anybody with a Y chromosome can be a father, but it takes something more to be a Dad) has changed me more than any other single event in my life. I remember the moment I held my son for the first time thinking, “Wow… this changes EVERYTHING.” – Tim

4. Oscarandre - April 25, 2008

Not withstanding the merits of reading to our children as you describe, Tim, the educational research on this is fairly unambigous too: there is probably no single activity that will have a greater impact on a child’s readiness and success in reading and learning than to read to them from a young age. It’s a winner which ever way you look at it (and now that the oppportunities are less, I kind of miss it)!

5. Tim - April 28, 2008

Gentiana,

I hope you’re enjoying those times as much as I enjoyed them with the boys. Those memories are still fresh, all these years later.

Oscarandre,

I agree, but for some reason all of that doesn’t seem to have the impact that it should. Perhaps we just think our kids are going to be geniuses through some kind of magic, I don’t know. Then again, maybe what made the boys so smart were all those years of watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles together. 😉 – Tim

6. Donna - September 17, 2011

Tim, probably my most cherished memories are the moments I shared with my kids as I read to them. When Tripp was still a little guy, he wanted me to start reading chapter books to him- so I did, just a little bit at a time. I will never forget the sunny afternoon when we were lying together in our big hammock. I read the last of “Where the Red Fern Grows.” Of course, I knew what was coming. But Tripp didn’t. Oh, how he cried. And then he said that the book was horrible because it was so terribly sad. We had such a great talk that day in the hammock- about how the story was actually quite wonderful in how it could make us feel so happy, and worried, and excited, and even sad. I miss those cuddly times. But you’d better believe that I read to my grandkids every chance I get!


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