I want the best for my kids. You do too, I’m sure. What if I told you that one of the best things you can do for your child only took 20 minutes. That a solid 20 minutes has the potential to change your child’s life. Dare I say it, maybe even your relationship? Would you be interested? “What is it!” I can already hear you asking.
Read to them.
“What? No. This is crazy. My child can read on her own and that’s what they should be doing, not me. That’s so childish. They’re not 3 anymore. This lady is an idealist. It’s not that simple. I don’t have time for that, I have other kids, and I can’t spend 20 minutes with each of them every night.”
Did any of those thoughts cross your mind? It’s okay if they did.
It sounds so simplistic. It is ridiculously simplistic. My children love nothing more than for me to read to them. I love when we bond over books, character decisions, plot lines, and prose. We can have conversations that take us to extraordinary ideas. A simple 20 minutes provides us with lengthy discussions.
My husband and I recently adopted a little girl from the foster care system. Do you know what has helped her the most? Being read too. This precious time aids in our bonding and attachment, allowing close proximity, safe physical touch, our calm voices to wash over her, and gives her what she has rarely been given before: time together. Simple Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales gives us fascinating and engaging characters and their choices to discuss. When our kids make good and even poor choices I can refer back to characters we have discussed. It gives them context. Those characters become a guide.
“You really shouldn’t be making this choice. I know your sister hurt your feelings, but you’re letting how you feel ruin your day. Remember Stuart Little and how he ruined a day with Harriet because he couldn’t get over his canoe? You’re acting like Stuart, and things did not go well with Stuart. What choice can you make right now?”
The best thing we did for our adopted daughter was to start reading to her immediately. The best thing we did for us was to start reading to her immediately.
So here’s what you can do. You can huddle around a book after dinner for a quick chapter. If you have little ones who are easily distracted, give them something quiet to play with while you read. Lego bricks are always a big hit. So is food. If you feed them, they will come. Or while you’re still at the dinner table grab the book and read, as everyone is finishing up the meal. Ask the simple question, “should that character have made that choice?” and you’ll be amazed at the answers. You can retort with a “yeah, but…” This will create more dialogs and they’ll be thinking critically. It’s a beautiful thing to have a conversation with your kids.
What about teenagers? You can’t read to them anymore…..
What about teenagers? They could benefit from this the most. Especially younger teens, when they are caught between who they were as children and who they are becoming as adults. Reading to them maintains the bond you developed with them as a child. Pick a book that you both are interested in and subtly mention reading it together…..“better yet, why don’t I just read it to you!” Play into how hard they work and offer them a break from school and reality while you read them a book.
If you are a parent of teenagers, please hear me. I know how hard it is to make this change because it goes completely against social norms. It would be awkward at first and I’m sure you would get push back. But ask yourself this question:
What do you trust more to provide characteristics like virtue, wisdom, and knowledge to your children, an online social media network or a book?
It’s time to start thoughtfully considering what is poured into your child. It’s time to start asking the questions, “Is this blessing my child? Is this nourishing her soul?” These are hard decisions, hard changes, and we can’t do it alone.
If you’re reading aloud to your kids, tell us what you’re reading in the comments. Let’s create a dialog of support, suggestions, and bravery!
Remember, it only takes 20 minutes a day.
There is a great book list you can download here to help you get started: