Amy, as an educator for 12 years and a mother to soon be 3 children, can you share with us a little about the importance of and effects of reading to our children?
Discussing my opinions concerning reading to children is such an overwhelming task for me sometimes, simply because there is so much I want to convey. It isn’t just a good book that excites me; it is sharing and discussing these books that lead to greater things. I’ve been a part of book clubs for adults. I have also led and facilitated book clubs for children. I can say without hesitancy, that the greatest marks books and book discussions can make are on children.
As a teacher, teaching an author study for the past several years, I was always so anxious in August when I met my students to show them what I knew was waiting for them at the proverbial finish line. I couldn’t wait to have them see the big picture of all four of the books I would be sharing with them. In the midst of my anticipation I would always have to settle myself for starting slowly, building interest, fitting the pieces together step by step. That is how I’ve had to approach it with my own children.
I knew before becoming pregnant with my first child that I wanted to raise a reader, a lover of literature. I also knew I had to start small. My first child was read to many nights while even still in the womb. I read the story of Little Miss Spider to her. After she was born, I read it to her nightly. It was amazing to see the calm come over her as I read it. In my own mind, I took this always to mean that it felt comforting to her to hear it, because she had heard it over and over in the womb. As she grew, we expanded our library. With each story I read, we bonded. We had time together that was quiet, and peaceful, and comforting. As she grew older, she wanted to exert her independence. She began choosing the books; she began pretending to read. There are stages of reading. This one is always the most intriguing to me, because it is the beginning of visible creativity and imagination blooming. Now, as a seven year old, she can’t get enough. Books are like a security blanket for her.
Statistically, I could go on and on about the benefits of reading to your children. I read a book in college that I’ve never forgotten. I encourage parents often to read it. It’s called The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease. It lays out all of the reasons why parents should read to their children far better than I ever could. But there is one thing in that book that stood out to me over a decade ago, and is still the driving force behind why I so passionately advocate for reading to children. In it, he talks about IQ vs. HQ: our intelligent quotient vs. our heart quotient.
There is no denying that reading to children can and will expand vocabulary, strengthen attention span, aid in comprehension and problem solving skills, and enhance the ability to analyze and reason. However, the heart is what we are after. The heart of the child is what we need to affect.
I have been honored and privileged over the last twelve years to see what reading aloud to children can do to the heart. As a Christian teaching in public schools, I knew the laws of separation of church and state. But, my heart was always looking for those who were open to hearing about God’s story. I found early on that opening a book and reading it to children will also open doors for great and amazing conversations. It was so exciting to be a part of the conversations these read aloud books were fostering.
My all-time favorite series has been The Giver series by Lois Lowry. If you haven’t read it, do. It is a must. I have read The Giver every year to every group of students for twelve years. Never once, did it not lend itself to students openly realizing the connections in this story to the story of the gospel. I have been fortunate enough to foster student led discussions about creation, sin, repentance, forgiveness, redemption, grace, and mercy more times than I can recall… and in public schools, no doubt.
Now I am blessed to be able to start these conversations with my own children. Because the foundation of reading has been established, they don’t mind sitting down and listening to me read. I am intentional in my book selections so that conversations will begin and the heart will be affected. That is, after all, what I’m after.
God wants their heart…. So as a parent, I can help. This is my way of helping. Opening doors to communicate, allowing time to cultivate relationships, sharing emotions: these are the reasons I read to a child. I cannot encourage parents enough to read to their children. It is never too early, and it’s never too late. I’ve always said that every child can learn to love reading. You just have to find the right book. They aren’t going to find it alone. As parents, we have such a blessed opportunity to nurture their spiritual growth by helping them find literature that propels them to greatness. Reading aloud to them and with them is, in my opinion, one of the most important things we can do as we seek ways to guide and mold their hearts. Find stories that affect the heart, and you’ve found gold.
Amy DuBose has been married to Dustin for 12 years and they have two wonderful daughters, Emerson (7) and Reese (6), and a son on the way. The DuBose family are valued members of Crossings Community Church.