By Sue August

This article was written 7 years ago. Our son is now 12, and we are still reading aloud together!

One of the most precious gifts Mark and I want to pass on to our son, Jack, is our love for good books. One of the gifts Jack has already given us is the opportunity to discover the richness of reading aloud as a family. Unfortunately, many families in our fast-paced world miss out on this priceless experience. Reading aloud as a family may mean compromising on other things, such as mom’s spic and span house, dad’s evening paper, or the family’s favorite sitcom.

My goal in the following paragraphs is to whet your appetite. Hopefully, after you’ve tried reading aloud, you will be hooked like we are!

Our family’s habit was formed as part of the bedtime routine. When Jack was about 3 1/2, every night we would all snuggle in our bed and read a portion from a children’s Bible and two other stories, then sing a worship song, and finally it was “lights out” time for Jack. This hour-long routine started because Jack used to have a very hard time falling asleep. Now that he’s a little older, Jack’s sleep problems seem to have disappeared, but we have kept the routine. We asked ourselves, “What better way could we spend that hour?” It has become very dear to us.

Just when we thought we would go out of our minds reading the same favorite picture books over and over at Jack’s request, we introduced him to chapter books. He thought he wouldn’t like them because there weren’t many pictures. We persevered for a few nights through The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. On the third night, how rewarding it was to hear Jack exclaim, “I can picture it in my mind!” It was smooth sailing after that. Of course, we would never rob Jack of the pleasure of sharing picture books! About 60% of our reading still comes from well-written picture books. As a matter of fact, picture books are not just for kids. As we read Through Grandpa’s Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It touched us deeply.

The benefits of our family reading time are many and diverse. The feeling of family cohesiveness is strong when we share a private joke referring to a book we have read. Whenever one of us mixes up our words, we laugh at ourselves and say, “I’m just like the sheriff!” (This is a reference to the sheriff who couldn’t get his words out correctly in Homer Price by Henry McCloskey.)

It also seems as if Jack’s vocabulary has been expanded effortlessly as he listens to books that are well written with rich phrases. It surprises me every time when he says things like, “Actually, that isn’t the case” and “I see the breeze rippling across the meadow.” It also lets me know that something must be sinking in!

With every book we read together, I feel like I am adding to my resources for giving examples of godly and ungodly behavior. Instead of struggling through abstract ideas, I can refer to how spiteful Nellie Oleson was and how it made Laura Ingalls feel. (This is a reference to Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.) At the age of 4, it seems like it is hard for Jack to see his own sin. Giving him concrete examples from characters he knows helps him to make the connection.

There are some other benefits of reading good books together that we are hoping to reap in the future. I am hoping that Jack’s horizons will be broad. If he has an awareness of many, many other people, places, and times in history, perhaps he will be less preoccupied with himself and his own little world. I am also hoping he will return to some of his favorite books and want to read them on his own when he is older. I would hope he would liken this to being reunited with an old friend. Our plan is to continue reading books together as a family as long as we are in the same household.

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