Don't Read to Your Kids to Make Them Smart
The way I remember it, my brother only wanted to read two books; Casey at the Bat and Ferdinand. I requested others and he would acquiesce, but it always came back to Casey and Ferdinand. I did love those books. They were more than stories, they were repetition. They were a secure memory played over and over. I rested next to him on his pillow and listened as he read. He read well, with expression, and each time I waited as Casey swung his bat. I knew the ending, but with baited breath, I waited. I listened. And I echoed the words I knew by heart.
We read A.A.Milne and we repeated “Obedience,” and “Halfway Down the Stairs,” and “Whenever I Walk on a London Street” as though they were inside jokes. I felt a kind of identity in the books we read. They belonged to us, they were part of us. They were our stories, our poems, our memories.
At night my mom sang to me; “You are my Sunshine”, “I am this Dolly’s Mama”, “His Buttons are Marked U.S.”, “Freckled Face Fat Consumptuous Sarah Jane”. All were sung by memory upon request. But first… she read. She read Laura Ingalls Wilder and The Secret Garden. She read Roald Dahl and Mark Twain. She read C.S. Lewis and Charlotte’s Web. In each book, each author, is a memory. Night after night, book after book, each book marks a time in our history together. I realize that nearly every memory of my childhood is accompanied by a good book.
It is likely these memories that pulled me back to reading as an adult. Years of assigned reading convinced me that reading was only intended for learning. In high school and college, pleasurable reading became a foreign concept. I grew tired of the dreaded task. I learned to skim and take notes. I learned to find topic sentences and thesis statements, but forgot how to enjoy a story. Now, as a parent, my childhood memories draw me back to the beloved favorites and I share reading aloud as a family tradition. And as I share my memories with my kids, memories wrapped up in stories, my love for books is awakened once again. I find myself reading to relax, reading to experience, reading to learn and grow and gain a different perspective of life and culture.
I have read many articles in parenting magazines and on blogs touting the benefit of reading to children. The statistics tend to focus on IQ scores and vocabulary, grades and attention span. These benefits are true and wonderful, but they are not enough. It is like feeding a newborn baby. The baby is desperate for milk, needing it to survive, but just as a baby needs food for survival, he also needs tender arms to hold him, to rock him, and eyes to gaze upon as he eats. Likewise, we should read to our children, not merely to impart knowledge and to raise their IQs, but for pleasure, for bonding, for memories.
So hold your child on your lap, lie next to each other on a pillow before bed, sit under a tree on a picnic blanket, cuddle up around a fire and read. Read. Read, not to make your child smart, but to enjoy, and to love.
Do you read to your children? Do you have fond memories of being read to as a child?
Erin grew up in SE Iowa, she graduated with a BA in Elementary Education and married her college sweetheart. They moved to MI, she taught 5th grade for a couple of years, moved back to IA, and now she stays at home and homeschools their four children. She and her husband are in the process of adopting two four year old girls from China, both of whom have Down Syndrome and she writes about all of it on her blog, Excuse Our Mess. You can also find her on Twitter.