I first saw the power of intentionally reading with my kids when I was pregnant with my second child. My eldest is a sweet, sensitive little boy, and I wanted to help him prepare for a big transition in his life. I bought three books about becoming a big brother and we read them together in the months before I gave birth.
When the big day came to introduce my son to our new daughter, I was nervous. Friends had told me so many stories about how badly the transition had gone for them (particularly because of a small age gap). I was worried. Would he cope? Would he be jealous?
But as soon as my husband brought my son into the hospital room, he was so excited. He wanted to hold his sister and kiss her. He loved his new sister so much that he even started putting some stickers from his sticker book on her. And then something happened…
My son started repeating specific lines from the books we had read about why it was so good to be a big brother. Word for word. The repetition of reading the books had taught him how to navigate this situation.
I realized in that moment the power of a book to teach children.
From that point on, I have used books to help my children through every major transition—letting go of the pacifier, potty training, and even moving countries from Australia to the USA.
Neuroscience shows that our brains have been biologically wired for stories. For generations it’s how we’ve shared important life principles and truths. This is because stories bypass our logical brain and access our emotional brain. We are much more open to learning on a subconscious level.
Reading books with your children will help them make sense of the world, as they go on magical adventures with the characters in the stories.
3 BENEFITS OF READING STORIES
1. Reading builds a strong connection between parent and child. Reading together is a repetitive activity that we do on a regular basis. Whether it is reading illustrated books before bed with young children, or telling your older children stories, these are a special time of connection between parent and child. In our busy lives it is easy to miss the stillness and genuine connection that can come by giving our complete and focused attention to our children. The activity of reading a book or telling them a bedtime story does this.
2. Reading develops empathy. Empathy is the capacity to see something from another person’s perspective and have an emotional response to that. It is a powerful tool that we need for conflict resolution, healthy relationships, and even career success. We need this skill more than ever in the world we live in today. Stories encourage the development of empathy in a child. Children learn to see the world through the character’s eyes—feel the character’s feelings, see a different view, and understand the reason behind someone else’s behavior and choices. This skill is then practiced over and over again through the repetition of reading stories.
3. Reading is a powerful time of learning. Stories are one of the most powerful ways to share important life lessons and meaningful truths. Think about the last time you heard someone speak publicly. Out of all the information that was shared with you, what do you remember the most? The stories. Masterful teachers and speakers use stories to powerfully teach principles without the audience even being aware that they are “learning.”
This is the power you have as a parent when choosing books and stories for your children. You can teach them important life truths—without them even realizing they are learning!
Many times we are unaware of the power of what we already have in our hands. You may think that what you have is just a book in your hands, or a silly story in your head. But what you are holding is a resource that is able to transform your child’s world.
If you would like a free “mad libs” style bedtime story that you can personalize for your child to share the important lesson of courage, please visit Resilient Little Hearts. And check out Sarah’s Kickstarter campaign for her book The Boy Who Stood Up Tall, a picture book that re-defines courage for tender-hearted children and shows them how to overcome fears (opportunity to fund through July 20, 2018).
QUESTION: What stories/books do you remember from your childhood?
CHALLENGE: Make an effort to read more this week with your kids, no matter their ages. Share the connection and fun of reading a story together. Consider picking a book that demonstrates a value or character trait you find important.
Edited by Kimberly Price.
Image provided by the author; graphics by Anna Jenkins.