Reading to your kids is a win-win-win. It’s easy, it’s educational, and it doesn’t require parents to pretend-play or even move their tired bodies. You don’t have to dress up, or retrieve teeny Lego weapons that have fallen down the air vent. You don’t need ingredients, nor does reading necessitate cleanup. For the love of sanity, you don’t have to play ANYTHING. Reading to your kids makes for possibly the earliest and easiest parenting success of all — even easier than learning to feed or bathe your kid. Unless you possess a savant’s knowledge of infant care, learning to understand and respond to your baby — heck, to your 8-year-old — requires experience and a lot of patience.
After weeks, months, and years of parent sleep-deprivation accumulate, an educational experience that merely requires snuggling up on the couch or in bed, reading words from a page with a kid or two tucked in each armpit, feels like a revelation. You can lie down. You can stay warm. Everyone remains relatively calm/quiet, or gets banished from the cozy area until they’re able to do so. Little imagination on the part of the parent is required, yet maximum imagination potential exists on the part of the listening children. Besides, where else can you employ all of those accents you learned as a theater major, if not while reading Harry Potter?
Seriously, reading to my kids provides the one area of parenting where I can enjoy zero guilt and neurosis. Even when I had no idea how to get my kid to sleep at night, we could sit in a rocker and chew on board books together. Reading to your children from birth is one of the biggest gifts you can give them. Not only do they experience physical bonding and immersion in language and literacy, but research also shows that children accrue a longer attention span and patience for sitting still by listening to their grown-up read — both assets for learning throughout life. Even if that patience mostly falls on you in the beginning, as your baby throws book after book across the room, or makes you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar so many times that you can both recite by rote what he ate on Saturday (without even looking at the cake, ice cream, pickle, cheese, salami, lollipop, pie, sausage, cupcake — and gasp, watermelon). Reading teaches your kids to listen, a skill that will likely impact their relationship with every future teacher, boss, and life partner. Your kids probably won’t listen to you, their parent, regardless, but that’s child development 101.
Reading does require books, however. Thankfully, the library serves not only as a place to score free books, but also as a community gathering space for stay-at-home parents feeling shut in. I took my children on library outings weekly before they started school. Fun fact: Library computer time doesn’t count as screen time. So go to library and pick out a ton of books. Let your kids pick some out, too. When people ask for gift ideas for your kids? Books.
Then, read. Let your kid see you reading. When your kids no longer want you to read to them, read next to your son or daughter on the sectional. Read because your kids won’t cuddle with you otherwise. Read just to know you are parenting 100% RIGHT. Reading can take you and your kids beyond the confines of reality into the expanse of fantasy. Thankfully, reading can also transport you, their grown-up, beyond yourself and your parenting insecurities, while bringing you closer to your children.
Win, win, win, WIN.