Why You Should Make Time to Read to Your Kids Every Day

Family of four reading together on a couch

As an avid reader, I eagerly anticipated sharing my favorite books with my children. However, the reality is that children’s literature dominates the early years, and parents often miss out on the joy of reading together as kids learn to read independently. This trend is exacerbated by a decline in recreational reading among adults.

Today, I want to emphasize the importance of reading to our children. Despite my kids now being 10 and seven, we still enjoy reading together, currently immersed in the enchanting world of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It’s heartening to see my children share my enthusiasm for the story, requesting reading sessions during various parts of the day. It’s a delightful bonding experience.

Data from a 2019 survey reveals that only one-fifth of nine to 11-year-olds are read to regularly, a statistic that may even be optimistic. Through personal observations, I’ve noticed the rarity of families engaged in shared reading, a tradition that has historically fostered strong bonds and connections among individuals.

It’s unfortunate that the tradition of storytelling or reading together has waned in modern times. As a parent, I believe it would be beneficial if more families made reading a customary activity, whether during family meals or long car rides. Reading has a unique power to unite and create lasting memories.

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Many parents may feel that reading to their children becomes redundant once kids can read independently around the ages of eight or nine. There’s also a perception that read-aloud sessions may be belittling or imposing on children’s autonomy. Moreover, the allure of electronic devices often supersedes the time spent on traditional book reading, which can feel antiquated in the digital age.

However, family reading offers unique benefits that are often overlooked. While digital media and gaming provide interactive and social entertainment, reading aloud promotes active listening and engagement, fostering a deeper connection among family members. It may appear old-fashioned, but the shared reading experience enhances the bond between parents and children.

Having observed how much students miss when reading independently, I emphasize the value of reading together. A collective reading session allows for discussion, clarification, and appreciation of the text, ensuring a deeper comprehension of the content. Simply turning pages does not equate to absorbing the material fully.

The reluctance to engage in family reading, especially among parents concerned about screen time, raises questions about priorities and habits. While the shift from individual to family reading may seem challenging, the rewards are immeasurable.

Research supports the diverse cognitive benefits of both personal and group reading experiences. By incorporating both approaches, children can cultivate a well-rounded understanding of literature and enhance their cognitive development. It’s not about choosing one over the other; it’s about embracing the diversity of reading practices.

While initiating family reading may seem intimidating initially, the shared experience offers a unique opportunity for connection and learning. As children grow older, these moments of shared reading become cherished memories that strengthen familial bonds.

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Some parents may argue that they lack the time for family reading sessions. While time constraints are valid, the prevalence of technology-dominated family gatherings suggests that the issue lies more in setting priorities and establishing meaningful routines.

Choosing suitable books that cater to the diverse ages and interests of children can be daunting. Personal experiences with my children’s varying preferences have highlighted the unpredictability of selecting books for shared reading. Yet, the consistency of reading with your children over time builds momentum and strengthens the family bond.

Family reading should not replace individual reading but complement it, offering a gateway for non-readers and a refreshing change for avid readers. By allocating time for both personal and family reading, children can develop a well-rounded appreciation for literature and mitigate excessive screen time.

While reading may be perceived as a solitary activity, combining personal and shared reading experiences can enhance the enjoyment and educational value of books. It’s essential to strike a balance between independent reading and family bonding through shared stories.

While there may come a time when my children outgrow bedtime stories, for now, the joy of reading together remains a cherished tradition in our household. The shared experience of delving into books with my children is irreplaceable, and I’m grateful for these moments.

Frederick Hess is an executive editor of Education Next and the author of the blog “Old School with Rick Hess.”

The post Don’t Stop Reading to Your Kids appeared firstjson Education Next.

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