When to STOP READING to your Child

Family reading.Something amazing happened in our house recently. The challenging process of learning our letters and sounding out each one is long behind us. My youngest child is thirteen, and she’s a strong reader. My other children are twenty and twenty-four. So it’s been quite some time since I read aloud to my children.

Shared Reading Time

As soon as they were strong readers, shared reading time seemed to fade away. But I decided that I would read a classic—Huck Finn in this case, to my daughter over her breakfast. I had several objectives in mind:

  1. I wanted her to have more exposure to good writing. Yes, yes, don’t we all?
  2. I also wanted her to be able to recognize the unique language of individual authors; in this case Mark Twain.
  3. I also wanted to further my own exposure to good writing—in other words, expose myself to some of the classics that had been left out of my own education. (In case you hadn’t yet figured this out, one of the BEST things about homeschooling is that we finally get the wonderful education that we wished we’d had.)
  4. I wanted some quality time with this daughter. As she has grown more focused and responsible in her schooling, (and there were some years where this possibility was in question) I have had less and less interaction with her, and frankly, I missed her.
  5. I also love killing two birds with one stone. What a bizarrely graphic metaphor. Seems an odd coupling with something as savory as breakfast. But since eating breakfast happens every day, we might as well accompany it with something valuable. Come hither little birds.

So read I did. And all of those aforementioned objectives were met.

But there was a surprise.

And here’s where the amazing comes in.

The Family Gathers Around

The rest of the family began to gather. One by one, they began to attend our reading—even my husband! One adult child even asked us to hold off on a particular chapter until they could join us (college finals called them away.) It was astounding to me how the act of reading a good book aloud brought people together. Previously, I had thought this was perhaps an antiquated notion, more in line with Little House on the Prairie days when people had no other options, no computer games, no amazing video documentaries, no Legos.

But there we were, gathered round the table, listening, laughing, and even analyzing the reading afterward in a thoughtful way. In fact I’ve come to a conclusion about Huck Finn: it should be read once as a child for the action-drama in it, and then read again as an adult for the amazing interwoven anti-slavery and social commentary in it—stuff most likely lost on a child’s reading.

What an amazing time I had with my family. Good grief! How had I missed this?

So now it is part of the plan. Huck Finn is finished. And we’ve already picked out our next book—Treasure Island.

I have also come to a firm conclusion on just when you should stop reading to your children: when they are eighty.

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3 Responses to “When to STOP READING to your Child”

  1. Nancy Goyette Says:

    What if your 12 year old (mine – also a very strong reader) thinks reading aloud is for the “less mature” (my translation)? I have been really missing this myself but have meet with such strong resistance. Perhaps it can be an “experiment”; we can try for a week, on a “trial basis”, and then re-evaluate? Think I have answered my own question : ) Thanks for sharing this. It’s off to the Library once (the snow plows get through here in Waterbury, CT : )

  2. Noel Bjelde Says:

    Oh Thank You! Thank You!! Thank You!!! This completely affirms one of the things we do and love! (I was so hoping you would end with the conclusion you did)! I would also venture to add, “…eighty and beyond!”, as I’ve had the joy & privilege of reading to bed-ridden, elderly folks~ the shared experience bringing richness to relationship and a sense of value in a culture that places less & less [value] on an individual, the older he/she becomes. Thank You, again.

  3. Julie Streit Says:

    My family loves it when I read. When my 12-year-old gets alone time with me, he asks me to read. What has boggled my mind the past two nights, though, is my 3 1/2 year old. At 11:00 pm, with no naps, he is still bouncing off the walls (this child does not believe in sleep). The night before last, I was trying to get some Bible reading in, so I started reading it aloud – and he calmed down and went to sleep. Last night, he came bouncing into my bedroom when I thought he was asleep, so I asked him, “Do you want me to read the Bible to you?” And he said, “Yes, Bible.” So I read, and read, and he laid there and listened and finally fell asleep. Never underestimate the power of reading aloud. 🙂

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