Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Read. Learn. Connect.

"Keep reading, Mom!" We were traveling in the car and I was in need of something to quench my overworked throat after reading loudly enough to be heard in the back of the van continuously for half an hour on South American roads.

"Let's stop here and get something to drink and use the restroom, and then I'll keep going." 

You might be surprised to know that I was reading selected chapters to my kids out of Eddie Rickenbacker's autobiography. Not only was he America's most successful fighter ace in World War I, he also was a car designer, race car driver, head of Eastern Air Lines, survivor of multiple air and car crashes, and during a mission to personally deliver a secret message of rebuke to General Douglas MacArthur from President Roosevelt was forced to ditch the plane in the Pacific Ocean and was adrift for 24 days with 9 other men of whom 7 survived!  

At the time I was reading to my kids they were two boys, fourteen and nine, and two girls, ten and five. And they all loved it.

When we lived overseas I raided the library at the school for missionary kids (MKs) where my children attended for books to read. My favorite genre has always been biography or autobiography. Real people's real lives are so amazing, that reading about fictional people loses some of it's charm. That was where I had found this book and many others that I often read parts of or all of to my children. And I didn't just read biographies and stories of great Christians, I also read many of the famous fiction books that are so beloved: The Chronicles of Narnia, the Little House series, the Anne of Green Gables series, and others.

Usually we read before bedtime. And of course, they begged for me to keep going then so they could stay up later. But sometimes we also read after dinner around the table. And I think that's a great time to read together. Everyone loves a good story and it's such fun to put that inborn sense of drama we all have to use by making different voices and adding expression. I remember my youngest daughter asking how I could know what voice to use if it didn't say, "Laura said..." before the quotation. One of Mom's superpowers!

Whether you read fiction or non, reading together is a learning experience for everyone. A well researched and written novel teaches you much about different occupations, people, places, words, and times as well as valuable moral lessons. Then every book gives you something to talk about together as you figure out what is going to happen or what should have been done in the story. You might even decide to research more on a topic to understand it or read more books about an interesting subject. 

I'm sure that reading so many missionary stories while growing up is part of why I became a missionary. Who knows what can influence your child? My oldest granddaughter, Preciosa, (her bloggy name) is currently six and thanks to her mom reading a Magic School Bus book to her, she wants to be a Marine Biologist!

How to pick a good book to read to your kids:

  1. Read a variety of books--if you are reading you will find books to read to your kids, like I did.
  2. Find a book that excites you--if you like the book, you will enjoy reading it aloud and will make it fun for your kids.
  3. Read with enthusiasm--Try to use different voices for the main characters and add the inflection they would have if they were sad, excited, happy, or frightened. 
  4. Start small--I didn't start reading novels to my children, I started with picture books. But my oldest was ready for the Chronicles of Narnia when he was in kindergarten! Well before he'd be able to read the book. Now they are reading them to Preciosa!
  5. Find books on topics that interest your children--my boys loved cars and airplanes so I knew they would like Eddie Rickenbacker's story. My youngest is a red-head (or ginger as she prefers) and could relate to Anne of Green Gables.
  6. Spread out from there--read about people or times they are learning about in school, but in story form--either biography or fiction--to reinforce what they are learning and make it come to life. Are you going to be taking a vacation somewhere? Look for books about the people and places from there. Maybe for a vacation out west you could read stories about some of the famous cowboys, or a trip to the ocean might make you want to read about pirates or explorers.
  7. Don't get stuck--If a book just isn't interesting anyone, and you have given it a good try (my mom used to say every book deserves the three chapter test), then stop. Don't waste time reading to your kids a book that is boring.
  8. Keep reading--find a time when you can read on a consistent basis. We didn't read every single night and we sometimes went for periods of time when we didn't read at all. But we came back to it. Don't give up when one book doesn't keep their interest. 

Remember, your goals are to have a time when you can connect with your kids and have fun learning. It is so worth it!

For some great ideas of more books to read to your kids click here.

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Jen, mother of five says: We are in a really tough season for family dinners. With two teenagers that play school sports and three other younger ones who also have their own “stuff” combined with a daddy that works long, sometimes unpredictable hours it seems like 4-8 PM can be the busy-est time of my day and the time we are going in the most different directions.My best tips are planning and flexibility. I have given up an “all or nothing” attitude (I.e. “We ALWAYS have dinner at 6pm and everyone is expected to be here!”) and also embraced creativity as to how/when we eat together. 

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For More Ideas and Inspiration:
Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes

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  1. Yes, reading - so wonderful for the kids! So much they can learn and so many worlds to enter! And like you said who knows who or what might influence them for what they do in the future?

    1. I loved reading to my kids! It was one of my favorite activities with them.

  2. As an author, I absolutely love this post! And as a mom to young adult kids, it reminds me of many hours reading aloud to them when they were young. Gosh, I miss that! We homeschooled for many years, and my greatest joy was seeing their love of reading taking shape. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

    1. I was able to teach my oldest to read and that was such an exciting day. He was working so hard at it that I didn't want him to get discouraged so I suggested we stop after two pages. He said, "No! This is great! I'm reading!"

  3. no better mommy advice and around the table is so charming! great post.

  4. I think reading at the table is a great idea!

    1. Everyone is already there and the pokey eaters can keep going or it can be while dessert is being eaten--double treat!

  5. I grew up in the library. My kids all read and now my daughter has tons of books and goes to the library with her children. Big fans of reading. Found you on Grandma's Briefs Link Party.

    1. One of the first things I did when we moved back to the states was get a library card. I was thrilled to find out I could download kindle books from the library from my own home! Now I take my 2 year old granddaughter to story time each week.

  6. It makes me so sad that so many parents stop reading to their children once kids can read themselves. There is so much to be gained by it! Love your tangible suggestions for parents.

  7. I always loved reading and loved sharing my favorite books. My husband and I still read to each other on car trips, well, I prefer reading, he prefers driving. We also do audio books when we can.



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