Boundless joy and uncompromised love fill the hearts of all expecting and newly blessed parents. From the moment you’re told, “Congratulations, you’re with child,” until the doctor announces, “It’s a _____,” moms and dads the world over anticipate and rush along life’s first moments with thoughts such as, “I can’t wait until he sleeps through the night. I can’t wait until she can hold the bottle herself. I can’t wait until he can walk. I can’t wait until she goes to school, etc.” The day-to-day responsibilities of child rearing and the amount of time and energy it takes to get through these days are daunting. If only time would just pass a little more quickly so that Johnny or Suzie would occupy themselves for longer periods of time. So we wish for our little ones to be just a little bit older. Before you know it, we can sign them up for a host of activities that will seemingly lighten the load. Often times, just the opposite occurs. Schedules become tight and conflict with other responsibilities. We begin to complain that all these activities are killing us and that we can’t be in two places at the same time. We say, “If only the soccer season were over.” As time marches on, before long, we say to ourselves, “I can’t wait until John gets his license. Then he can drive himself to wherever he needs to go. He can also drive Suzie, too.” It just seems as though we wish our time away as parents/guardians.
Then one day, we wake up and realize our children are no longer children any more. They’re their own persons who can think and act independently of us. They seclude themselves in their rooms and only grace us with their presence, if we’re lucky, at meal times. In time, they openly tell us they’re looking forward to getting their “own place.”
The simple pleasures in life such as holding your son/daughter on your hip, playing Peek-a-Boo, having a tea party, playing catch, or holding them on your lap to read them a story are long gone. Our quest to relieve some of the parenting pressure and make it to and over the next hurdle has caused us to wish away our time with our young ones; time that can never be restored.
As parents/guardians of preschoolers, elementary, middle, and high school aged children, we have the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. The time needed to do so may have to be only ten to fifteen minutes a day. This time is so flexible that it can occur while eating a meal, as a means to decompress after school or a sporting event, as dessert is served after dinner, or to wind down the day at bedtime. The materials needed to accomplish this activity are free. What activity takes so little of our time, can be accomplished whenever our schedule permits, and doesn’t cost us any money? Reading books to our children is the answer to all three of these questions.
The benefits of reading to our children are limitless. One obvious benefit is the bonding with our children that occurs every time we sit together and read. Another benefit is language acquisition and development. Still another is active engagement with our children. Developing reading comprehension skills, enlarging vocabularies, and providing opportunities for critical thinking are three additional benefits of reading to our children. Most important of all, while engaging in family literacy and reading aloud to our children, we are instilling in them a lifelong love of reading. Emilie Buchwald tells us, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” (Emilie Buchwald). Let’s not wait until our children outgrow our laps.--Roxanne Wade