“It’s my turn to go first!”
“No, you went first yesterday!”
“But Daddy was at work so we didn’t read mine.”
“I want to sit in the middle!”
This is our chaotic and wonderful nightly ritual: story time. My kids are 16, 9 1/2 and 8, and this has been a part of out evenings for years. We eat dinner, shower when applicable, jammie up, and squeeze together onto our couch to read; my wife, me, and the younger two E and G shoehorned together, and our galumphing teenager D on the love seat because he just doesn’t fit anymore.
Over time the ritual has changed. Originally it was a chapter for the oldest and a picture book apiece for the others, and for a bit D dropped out due to lack of interest in Dick and Jane and Dr Seuss, but about 3 years ago it turned into a whole family tradition.
My wife and I are both voracious readers and were both precocious kids, so it was no surprise that all three of our children read early and easily. By the time E and G were school age they were losing interest in the “age appropriate” literature and wanted something they could sink their teeth into. So, trusting in my kid’s maturity and wanting to challenge them a bit, I dug into our own collection and pulled out Harry Potter.
Good call, Jimbo, good call.
Needless to say, they loved it. Even D, who had decided that gaming online with school friends was more fun than story time, gravitated over to listen. Over the course of 8 months we plowed through all 7 HP novels, then moved onto others: The Hobbit, Series of Unfortunate Events, the ‘Nother Story trilogy, Where The Mountain Meets the Moon, and most recently Narnia and Percy Jackson. Always, I am amazed at how much the younger two retain, even when they get antsy and don’t seem to pay attention, and always I am amused at how much D enjoys himself, even when he feigns disinterest.
Now I’m not claiming that nightly stories are the secret to the perfect family. Our kids are not perfect and neither are we. There are fights and boredom and sass and moments of lost temper from all 5 of us. But I’m pretty sure we are raising a family with an appreciation for the written word. I’m pretty sure that we are creating good bonds with our kids. And most importantly, my wife and I are pretty sure that, despite the imperfections, we are creating good memories. When D and E and G are grown, my hope is that they will look back at their childhoods, remember this, and smile. That, I think, is the best thing a parent can give their children.
So read to your kids.