And perhaps we have lost sight of the most basic one: reading to our children.
I have some of the typical American hi-tech wizardry in my house: MacBook, iPad, and televisions. But with all the electronic distractions that surround them, there is one thing that our children will drop everything to attend: their parents reading a story to them.
Yesterday morning, Lisa sat down to read a book to Mary Katherine on our couch. As I was finishing my oatmeal, I sat down on the couch and watched the children, one after another, compete for Lisa’s lap to hear the story.
As she read the words, I looked over at little Mary Katherine, looking pensively at the words and pictures, listening to the sound of her mother’s soothing voice. The other children had similar expressions, with mesmerized looks that deepened with the turning of every page.
Heck, as I ate my kibble, even I wanted to hear the story unfold, which says a lot considering that Lisa was reading Curious George Learns His ABC’s. (I was pretty sure I knew how this one was going to turn out.)
I’m not completely sure why it is magnetizing, but I am sure that it is magnetizing to listen to someone read to you. It is a surprisingly personal experience. It’s also true in reverse: it is a very personal experience not only to listen, but to read to someone. Whenever I write something, I’m always happier to read it to Lisa than to print it out and hand it to her to read. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Whenever my dad, a professional author, writes something that he is particularly happy about, he’ll call me and say: “Let me read you something I just wrote.” At the age of 43, I guess I still find comfort in the fact that my daddy reads to me.
Psychologists tell us that reading to children creates a bond between parent and child. When we hear that, we tend to think of the good that it does for the child. Maybe that is because it is so obviously efficacious to them. But it’s also good for us parents to go on these reading and learning adventures with our children.
Since our earliest days of home-schooling, Lisa has read the daily Bible readings to our children. As a child, it’s hard to put a value on hearing the Word of God read to you by your mother who loves you. But I also think that it has helped Lisa understand the importance of her maternal pedagogic mission. Of all the things we have accomplished in homeschooling, nothing has been more valuable than this devotion to Scripture.
For my part, I am usually given fictional reading assignments. When my oldest children were growing up, I used to read them the C. S. Lewis Narnia books. We’d eat dinner, say the Rosary, and then I would read them a chapter from Prince Caspian or The Magician’s Nephew.
Everyone, including me, looked forward to it. The children didn’t ask if they could watch television instead—they wanted to hear me read the stories. And I think in some ways, it went beyond that. We uncovered a world to which we were all transported together.
Every night, when Daddy opened the cover of that book, we were there—we were together in Narnia. We had walked through the wardrobe, together.
I know that many of us fathers have very little time these days. Many of us are working more than one job to support our families. And if you’re anything like me, when you’re not working, you are tempted to think about your job.
But reading to your children can be a ten-minute escape for all of you.
It may be an experience that bonds you together forever.