Wednesday, February 8, 2017

When Mother Reads Aloud

(Disclaimer: This encouragement goes for dads, too)

I thought I would write about something a bit different today. We all need some lighter blog content, don't we? I happened to be scanning my old blog archives from about ten years ago, and came across this poem, whose author I do not know. If you know it, please tell me:
When Mother reads aloud, the past
Seems real as every day;
I hear the tramp of armies vast,
I see the spears and lances cast,
I join the thrilling fray;
Brave knights and ladies fair and proud
I meet when Mother reads aloud. 
When Mother reads aloud, far lands
Seem very near and true;
I cross the desert's gleaming sands,
Or hunt the jungle's prowling bands
Or sail the ocean blue.
Far heights, whose peaks the cold mists shroud,
I scale, when Mother reads aloud. 
When Mother reads aloud, I long
For noble deeds to do -
To help the right, redress the wrong;
It seems so easy to be strong,
So simple and so true.
Oh, thick and fast the visions crowd
My eyes, when Mother reads aloud.
When my oldest child, my daughter, was about eight months old, she could not crawl, but she did sit well, and she loved paper. She loved to play with the flyers from the newspaper. Seeing her interest in pictures, we began letting her handle books designed for little hands. She loved them. We began sitting together and I would show her how to turn the pages. Of course, there were only ever a few words on the page; sometimes, only one word. But I would read the word and then turn the page. Sometimes, she would be eager to take charge and turn the page before we'd read everything, and I would say, "Wait, mommy will turn the page." Eventually, she learned to wait patiently for me to turn the page.

Our reading time began with a few minutes in the chair. By the time she was a year old, she would sit quietly for five or six books every day before nap time. I went through the same process with my boys when they came along, culminating in our homeschooling days when we read together in the morning after our math and spelling were done. We would have hot chocolate with marshmallows in the winter and juice in the warmer months. And Goldfish crackers. They all liked to have a container of those. We read the Bible, novels, poetry, history, and science.

I can't understate the value of reading aloud. It is possible today to have robotic teddy bears read to our kids, or to have them listen to audio books read by someone else, or to use a device that reads to them. You don't even need mom or dad! Isn't that handy? Maybe, but I think that is shortchanging everyone. By reading aloud, we gain a lot more.

First, we show them that we as parents value reading. That sends a message to them. As they grow up, they see that their parents value books, and they will have a family heritage which values reading. Perhaps you will have a child who doesn't grow up to be an avid reader despite your example; it won't be your fault.

Second, it provides quiet time with your kids. I see a lot of kids who are 12 years old and still can't sit still in church. They need to be entertained. I never had a problem with my kids sitting in church, and I wonder if it is because they were taught to sit still early. It wasn't immediate, but it developed over time. And it required patience.

Third, it teaches them the love of a story. When I read aloud to the kids, I tried to read with as much expression as I could muster. That meant reading the voice of Eyeore in the slow, draggy voice one would expect. It meant trying to do the Cockney accent that the moles used in Redwall. When Charlotte dies at the end of Charlotte's Web (sorry if I spoiled this for you), I cried without embarrassment, because I was caught up in the story. Maybe the kids thought I was a wimp, or maybe they just saw that I loved the story.

Fourth, it helps with language development. When we read aloud to young children, we can talk about words, and we can read words that are difficult for them and explain them. Yes, yes, they can use the internet and look them up, but wouldn't you rather just interact with your kids instead of farming them out to Nanny Google?

Part of learning to be good readers of the Bible means learning to be good readers in general. God's revealed will has been passed on to us through the medium of words. As Christians, we should be people of words, and what better way to instil that than by reading aloud? By all means read the Bible out loud. We did. But we read other things as well. It was a staple of bed time when they were young and when we were homeschooling, it was a core part of our curriculum. My daughter, who has taught undergraduate university students in English, has mentioned numerous times the fact that young people don't know how to read well. That should be remedied.

My children are grown and are avid readers. I look forward to having grandchildren. I know that my husband will be the one they run to for rough and tumble games and Lego building. I will be happy to read to them as much as they want. And it will be a wonderful thing.


  1. I read to my kids, even into their high school years. Conversations on morality and hypocrisy while reading The Scarlet Letter; the adventure and false gods in the Odyssey; heroism and cowardice in The Red Badge of Courage. Such precious memories . . .

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  3. I did this with all five of my children. My first I started at 6 months, and we read the same book everyday; when he saw the same pictures, he would automatically make the noise and do the hand motions that corresponded with the object. "He was reading before he could even talk in words!" : )