In the Allaire Family Constitution, it specifically states that 7-8 p.m. is reading time. Any use of electronics at this time results in the guilty party having to cluck like a chicken…
Suffice to say, we take our reading time seriously.
I found a lot of information on why you should read to children from early infancy, my favorite being “Why It’s Important to Read Aloud with Your Kids, and How to Make it Count” by Amy Joyce, but I couldn’t really find any that showed the benefits of reading as a family once the children have already learned to read. (Joyce’s post states that older children cite reading with their parents as one of their favorite family memories).
As such, here is my list of reasons why I still read with my nine and thirteen year old:
I Get to Read Kids’ Books:
No shame in my Diary of a Wimpy Kid game. Why does middle grade fiction have to just be for kids? I can enjoy fart jokes or sympathize with a kid feeling like he may be failing math class. It reminds parents and adults that the problems children face are important to them, if they may seem small on an adult’s grand scheme of things.
Conversations: The best heart to heart moments I have had with my kids have come from situations expressed in the experiences of others. Fiction allows us to see things from another’s perspectives, especially when they go through situations that we normally could not. For example, I will never be an orphan forced to leave India and move to dreary England, but the kids and I could sympathize with feeling alone like Mary had in The Secret Garden. We talked about the power of hope and how changing your perspective can open doors you never even thought existed.
Fluency in Reading: I am often assisting in appropriately pronouncing words rather than the super speedy blurring that seems to happen when kids don’t know exactly what they are reading but still want to complete the sentence. By catching and correct these fluency hiccups, I am helping to improve my children’s fluency. I’m also learning to pronounce certain words, although I blame my mother being Scottish on a few choice pronunciations.
Time is Finite:
Learning how to manage time is an important lesson for children to learn. Realistically, there are nights where we are not at home. We are, after all, a family of four and have social lives. Reading as a family has cut down a lot of the activities that we would otherwise have agreed to do. When we plan things and I know it will run into family reading time, I’ll say, “If we do this we cannot read Harry Potter tonight,” and the kids then have to prioritize their wants. In a world of constant extracurricular activities, this is a necessary tool for a well-balanced lifestyle.
Quality Family Time:
With homework, chores, and extracurricular activities, it’s hard to get everyone in sync. Reading time has provided a time where are all together without any other distractions. The teenager thinks we’re on a mission to read a book and then see the movie based on it (if there is one), but what we’re really doing is spending uninterrupted family time. We established a goal as a family and maintained it towards success. If we did not choose to carve time out of out busy schedules to invest in this goal, it would have happened.
I’m not advocating for everyone set a family rule to spend an hour every day reading as a family, but what about once a week? If a family were to read an average 20 pages a week of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it could be finished in around eleven weeks. That is an impressive goal!