Huddled close together, we dive into our latest page-turning read, continuing a well-loved nightly ritual which began over ten years ago. This week we uncover a thirteen-year-old girl who, after the death of her father and the crumbling of her family’s wealth, migrates from her ranch in Mexico to a Mexican farm labor camp in California. Each chapter unveils another life lesson for us to unravel: bravery, family, independence, generosity. We find ourselves cheering for the heroine and moved to find our own internal courage and compassion.
I throw questions into this familiar space: “The woman on the way to Los Angeles explains that although she is poor, she is rich. How can that be? And can a rich person be poor?” Situations, values, and players in the story are unraveled; how compassion plays out in this character and bullying plays out in another. We notice the dialogue, the use of language, the tone. We pay attention to words and their power. I linger a few extra minutes, taking advantage of our quiet connection.
Unplugged life and presence is found in this space.
To be honest, I thought reading with our kids would eventually dissipate. I wondered if this time would also fall away as so many other childhood pastimes: gently pushing the small of their backs as they soared on the playground swing; tucking them in and singing one last bedtime song; holding their hands to cross the parking lot and lamenting the day they stopped grabbing my hand. Would this too become a mere treasured memory?
To my surprise and delight, even after they learned to read, our nightly ritual continued on. It became part of our core. They clamored for story time, as their legs dangled over our laps and their bodies contoured into the crevices of our arms. The tradition of reading trumped the transition of aging.
Now, neither child seems in a hurry to move past the nightly reading ritual. My husband and I are happy to oblige their bookworm tendencies. Recently, at a school ceremony, my son casually responded to a fellow student, as they learned his parents still read to him, “Yeah, it’s a great way for us to spend time together.”
He sees it too.
As their independence increases, and time with friends and after-school activities fill our calendars, I hang on to moments of connection with my children. With all of the pulls on our time, intentionality is necessary. Whether over a shared meal, a game of cards, a walk in the woods or an enchanting book, we look for ways to engage.
One day, this story time will pass. We may continue to share our favorite reads, discuss recent page-turners, and dialogue through the sticky points. Until then, we curl into the folds of the stacked pillows and worn comforters. Dialing in, we close the door on distraction and pour into our next read, while pouring into each other.
Are you looking for ways to connect with your child? Here are a few reasons you might consider adding story time to your list.
Five Reasons to Read, or Continue to Read, to Children
- It makes space for quality time and provides a consistent place for connection.
- It allows a place to explore issues relevant to your child such as bullying, parental discord, and body image.
- It expands vocabulary: “What is closed captioning?” “What does obsolete or desensitize mean?”
- It enhances their world view, allowing them to see examples of hard work, empathy, courage, perseverance, and love.
- It is beneficial for the reluctant reader. Some children may not enjoy reading, but may still appreciate a good storyline, adventure, humor or history.
Five Books We Loved For Ages 8-12
- Esperanza Rising
- Finding Gobi: The True Story of One Little Dog’s Big Journey
- Because of Winn-Dixie
- The BFG
- Where the Red Fern Grows
QUESTION: Is there a space in your week where you and your child can read together on a regular basis? Or if you do currently have a reading routine, could you expand it to consciously engage in related conversations?
CHALLENGE: Take an adventure to the library and choose one book you and your child would love to read together. Don’t pressure yourself to read every day or for a certain length of time; simply enjoy this time to connect.
Edited by Sharon Brown and Nollie Haws.
Image provided by the author.
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