Why We Love to Read

by Michelle McNally

No matter how the rest of the day goes, I know it will end with me sitting on my son's bed, holding both my son and daughter close as we read a book or two before bedtime. It's something we've done since my daughter was an infant. I don't exactly remember when reading became the thing to do before bedtime, but somewhere before her first birthday, Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, was as much of a part of bedtime as wearing pajamas.

In the past five years, we've had a string of "greatest hits", the books which have stayed in the bedtime rotation as others have come and gone. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss, Only You by Rosemary Wells, Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney, Raindrop Plop by Wendy Cheyette Lewison and The Wild Little Horse by Rita Gray are all books the entire family knows by heart.

Reading together means we are close. It means I am focusing on my children, rather than the multitasking I tend to do throughout the day. It means my children are listening to my voice, and contemplating the illustrations. We have family jokes, like saying good night to everything in the room, adding "You must not hop on pop!" when someone says "Stop!", and countless other little moments, all of which can be traced back to time spent reading (and re-reading) together.

But reading is so much more than reading. Reading opens the world to young children, exposing them to ideas and words which may be new. It builds intelligence, helps to develop language skills, and strengthens attention spans.

While most people know that reading to young children is good, many may wonder when it's appropriate to stop. My own daughter has started reading voraciously on her own, and has perfected the "walk and read" move I did as a child. Is she too old to be read to?

According to Jim Trelease, the author of the Read Aloud Handbook, she isn't. As children get older, they are able to enjoy chapter books and novels as read aloud material. Reading a book slightly above the child's own reading level is a great way to introduce books you loved as a child. Reading them aloud together first also gives parents an opportunity to discuss issues in books as they come up. School librarian Jim Brozina wanted to keep reading aloud to his daughter as she got older, so he challenged her to reading aloud together for 100 nights in a row. When that was over, she told him they should go for 1000. As it turned out, what they called The Streak lasted until the day she left for college.

Whether or not my family will complete a reading aloud challenge as dedicated as "The Streak" remains to be seen. Our bedtime reading ritual is well ingrained, and I don't think it will be disappearing anytime soon. I hope that it grows and adapts as our children do, so that we can enjoy reading novels together in the years to come.

Are you ready to find some new titles to love with your children? Check out Savvy's list of 100 titles to read before your child's first day of kindergarten.

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