Since before my firstborn could talk, I’ve read three bedtime stories a night. Actually, my wife has done a fair amount of that reading, and sometimes honored guests (grandparents, aunts and uncles, favored friends) get the privilege, and occasionally the kids’ behavior has been so horrid that they’re told to go straight to sleep, but when I say that I read my children three bedtime stories a night, and that I have for years, it’s basically the truth. I am the story reader of record in the family, and while my wife is also a bookish person, I’m more of what you would charitably describe as book obsessed. A bibliophile. I like what books look like on a shelf and stacked on tables, I feel a peace settle on me when I enter a library or bookshop, I can’t get enough of their smell, and—most of all—I love the words inside: how they read, how they sound, what they mean, why they mean what they mean, what we can learn from them, what they’re telling us, what they’re not telling us.
I read to my children just about every night because I know that children who are read to are more likely to become solid readers, to gain advanced language skills, to be wonderful people (right?). I read to my children because I work in an office all day and want to spend time close to them in the evening. I read to my children because I want them to associate time spent around books to time spent around me, in a safe, cozy, loving environment. I read to my children because books are important to me, and my children are important to me, and I want my children to recognize the importance of books, as well as their own importance.
I read to my children because there are so many stories I want to share with them.
I read to my children because I can’t not read to my children.
Though most of this reading has been picture books and short chapter books, we’ve recently made the jump to longer books. We started “Little Women” some time back, but recently took a break from that to blast through “The Phantom Tollbooth,” which proved to be a great choice. My girls would chant “Milo and Tock! Milo and Tock!” as they were getting ready for bed each night we spent exploring Dictionopolis, Digitopolis, and all points between.
We’re back to “Little Women” again, which the girls are enjoying, though in a different way. There are a lot of large and archaic words and terms, and my now-5-year-old secondborn asks a lot of clarifying questions, which is fine and understandable, but also breaks up the flow a bit. I don’t mind. Much. Still, I wonder how much they’re catching.
We recently read the chapter in which Amy maliciously burns up her sister Jo’s handwritten stories, and my girls were scandalized. Perhaps forgetting their own daily squabbles, they shook their heads, tight-lipped, at the sibling-vs.-sibling battle. But when Jo decides to ignore her petulant sister and refuses to forgive her, my daughters gasped out loud. Both of them. Even if other stuff is going over their heads, they recognized the seriousness of this broken relationship.
I’m looking forward to many more books to come. My firstborn is already reading “Little House in the Big Woods” on her own for a summer book challenge, so I’m thinking we might try “The Hobbit” next.
What were your favorite childhood reads?
What are you reading or looking forward to reading with your kids?