Reading In Front of the Kids, Not Just With Them

by GfG on January 29, 2014 · 6 comments

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I have a funny story…. so, sweet Esther was reading her new favorite book series next to me in bed one day when she looked at me and asked, “Mama, have you ever read a whole book?”

Yes, of course, sweetie.  Lots of them.

Moh-um.  I mean it.  A whole book.

(insert my shocked and questioning face here)  Yes!!  I have.  Lots!

(insert her tilted head and smirking smile… that turns into a serious dubious look with raised eyebrows)

The stinker didn’t believe me!!  I was beyond shocked.

How in the world could she possibly think I had never read an entire book?!  I was bummed.  Paul was entertained.

I realized that though I have read many read loud novels to her, she hasn’t realized when I’ve been reading for pleasure.   And it matters that she realize I am doing it.

{OH, for Pete’s sake… while I was typing this up, Esther sat next to me again, so I asked her, “Remember when I was reading that loooong book on my Kindle when we went to the beach?  And I cried when it ended?”  Again she says, “A whole book?”  THEN Paul Louis chimed in, “Mama, a whole book…. by yourself?!”

Clearly read alouds are the kids assisting me with a book and doesn’t count as me reading a book by myself.  Which makes a little sense because I wouldn’t count it for them either.}

I didn’t matter that I read all of Les Miserables while we together on two beach trips.  Or that I read L’Abri, and wept.  Or that this fall I read The Book Thief, and bawled.  Or that I have a stack of books consistently on (or in) my nightstand.

The deal is, I didn’t take the time to make sure she noticed me reading.  The odd part about all of this was that when I taught deaf children in the public school, I implemented a sustained quiet reading time every day and I read too.  I knew it was important that they saw an adult reading for pleasure.

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Why is it important for children to see adults they admire reading? 

Well, there is the practice what you preach gig, of course.  If I tell my kids that reading is good for the brain, important, and a great habit, then I should demonstrate that.   Kids have much more free time, of course, but a good habit is a good habit.  Even if it’s a ten minute habit.

Then there is the whole encouragement aspect.  If kids want to be encouraged to read, the best encouragement is modeling by the ones they love the most.

Parental pleasure reading can also intrigue the hesitant reader.  I’ve been known to read a children’s book that I believe my hesitant reader would just love, in front of them.  I grin.  I sigh.  I giggle.  I swoon.  It has worked.  “Hey, could I read that when you are done?”

If I used the reason of not enough time, then I could be encouraging the belief that busy people can’t or don’t read.  This just isn’t true.  We all know it’s about priorities.  Again,even  ten minutes is something.

I read so often that it never occurred to me that my children may not be noticing.  Especially the younger ones.  I will admit that I don’t read as often as they do, nor as often as I used to.  My (non Bible) reading mostly involves articles on the internet, occasional non-fiction books, and a few fiction books a year.

I’d love to read more and I guess my babies have provided the incentive.


So… Here are the steps I’m taking to make sure my children know I read for pleasure.  Whole books, even.

1. I take the book off my night stand.  I most often read in bed at night, when the kids are in asleep.  Naturally.  BUT that doesn’t help the kids see me reading, even if it does help them see that I love books.  Or piles of books.

If it’s just for five minutes in the school room during a break, I grab the book and take it into the public realm.  Where the children can see me reading.

2. I talk about the book I’m reading.  I can bring up my book at the meal table or just any ol’ time.  It doesn’t matter.  I just need to share that I’m enjoying it or there was a beautiful scene.  Whatever.  How Esther missed me bawling my eyes out on the hammock at the cabin is a bit beyond me, but somehow she did.

Kids are often in their own little world as far as what they notice, so I have to be proactive.

3. I ask them to come read with me wherever I am.    Or I join them where they are.  My kids are required to read a lot for school.  They have both assigned historical fiction books and pleasure reading every day.  Every once in awhile, I just snuggle up to them while they are reading or ask them to come read with me.  They love it.

I don’t do all of these every day, of course.  I aim for at least one.  Really, the 80/20 principle applies. I’m just trying to make it more of a lifestyle.  A habit for my life.

For my children.

I’m pretty sure I’ll benefit too.

Eventually, Esther and Paul Louis will believe me that I can read an entire book.  By myself.

Do you read in front of your children?


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