The Three R’s: Reading, Reading and Reading
Here’s some good news for you.
No, I’ll not be passing out coupons for free beer, comfy recliners and larg-screen televisions (can you tell I’m getting in a football mood?) any time soon. And, no, I’m not going away any time soon, either. So you can forget that.
What I’m talking about is, well, it’s reading. I hope that didn’t come as a surprise. After all, you could easily have read all about it in the headline to the column. See what I did there? Sneaky is my middle name. Well, it would be, but I can’t afford the price to have it legally changed.
The other day, I was cleaning out some of the more neglected spider condos in our house when, in amongst the broken lamps, cracked fans, limited-edition porcelain reproductions of a bust of James Tiberius Kirk’s corset and some actually useless stuff, I found several boxes filled to the flaps with books.
Books of all kinds. We had board books for the younger set who likes a little drool with their story. We had picture books, for those who can’t quite handle the delicate newsprint of comics and still like pictures. Chapter books, for the newly confident reader who’s ready to stretch his imagination. Young adult books, for those who are growing older, want more mature themes and are willing to promise me they will never, every, not-in-a-million-years read about sparkly vampires on pain of, well, on pain of me. I didn’t find many books that would appeal specifically to an older reader who is deeply into science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy and various other genres of the fantastic mostly because I tend not to box my books away.
Finding all these books quickly took my mind back to some of the most fun I ever had with my young dudes when we all were staying home together. From the moment they were born, I made sure my boys never went to bed without some storytime.
Okay, sure, they probably didn’t really understand what was going on when I read them Stranger In A Strange Land while they were in their cribs, but I know they loved hearing my voice while I read the story to them.
At first, I would pick out the books I wanted to read. Later, as the boys grew, they began choosing the books and also requesting the accent.
Accent, you ask? Yes, accent. See, I am, as some of you might have guessed, a bit of a ham. I’m also pretty good at broadly imitating various spoken accents. So, to spice up my nightly reading sessions, I would assign various accents to different characters in the book. Not only did this make the boys giggle just on general principles, but it also helped them to become more involved in the story. If everyone talked the same, sounded the same, it would make for a pretty boring listen.
Did you know that Grover, the Satyr from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series speaks with an Australian accent? Well, he did in our house anyway.
Over the years, I probably had more fun during our reading time than the boys did. I couldn’t imagine it ever ending. In fact, right up until the oldest was 15 years old, we met each night before bed for a nice half hour of me reading with them.
And that, my friends, is the good news.
You see, studies have shown that children who are read to when they are younger, will grow up to become more prolific readers as they age. The better reader a child is, the better student a child will become. Let’s face it, most kids will have a lot of reading to do as they advance in school. Wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t look on reading as a punishment, but rather something that could be enjoyed?
Not only is reading good for the kids, it’s good for the dad as well. I loved spending part of every day sitting on the couch, one son to my right and two sons to my left, feeling them lean in to look at the book and read along. I loved the shared interests we found while reading.
Closing the day with an activity that stretched our minds, invoked our imaginations and brought us closer together was an amazingly wonderful experience.
The even better news is that you — yes, YOU — can start your reading time tonight. Or right now. Or whenever you feel like it. It’s never too late to start sharing a good story with your children.
They’ll enjoy it. You’ll enjoy it. And it’s good for you all.
So what are you waiting for? Go get a book and get to reading.
Only, understand this. If I see you reading about sparkly vampires. . . Well, I won’t say what I’ll do, but you can rest assured, it’s not going to be something you’d want to read about late at night.