Some nights, I claim victories that speak only to hygiene, and I fear this night will be one of them. The girls will be washed, brushed, and dressed before I’ll rush them into their beds. Anything frivolous will have to be tossed overboard so the day’s weight won’t capsize my barge. Because ‘barging’ is exactly what I end up doing: plowing dutifully forward without slowing or noticing the beauty of the waves.
In the hallway, I trip over a stack of books and actually smile at the toppled pile. Having children who are both willing and able to read – alone – just might be my most hoped-for dream. I look backwards into my own childhood and see adventures and emotions and discoveries that happened for me within the pages of books, and I want that for my own children, too. Although she’s still some months away from being able to immerse herself in an exciting chapter book, my kindergartner is reading beginner stories with pride. The stack of books is a happy reminder of her progress.
But on this exhausted evening, the books also pester me with awareness: we need to take time to read. Every night. Yes, even the nights that find me counting the minutes until silence will fall around me.
I bend to straighten the picture books and hear my conscience harping: exposing my kids to books and stories daily is one of the most important ways I can help foster a love of reading. It is one of the most important ways I can help my six-year-old practice her newfound skills. It is one of the most important ways we can be close and connected without relying on technology or outings.
Reading is not frivolous, it’s vital.
Up until this point in my life as a parent, I’ve mostly approached children’s books with entertainment in mind. While I absolutely want my kids to come away from our reading sessions with enjoyment being central to their experience, it’s also becoming clear that it can’t be my only motivation to get us reading.
It’s been strange to realize that although books and reading are some of the great loves of my life, I’m finding it necessary to force the time to read together as a family. There is always something – some obligation or chore or tiring activity – that makes reading together seem like an extra instead of a must. I have lists of novels – classic children’s literature that sets my reader’s heart racing – but if I plow towards the end of each day with nothing but personal relaxation in mind, we may never get to read them together.
And my children may still grow to love reading even without my perfect attention to daily stories, but I don’t want to fall off the wagon and forget how much it actually soothes us all.
So I pick up the stack of books, choose several that have cadence and art and beauty, and place them directly in the middle of the bedroom floor. After baths and pajamas, we will read.
I never want to be so rushed that I forget to show my kids how perfectly a book can put a period at the end of a busy day.