Over the last few days I have become discouraged. Sad that there are children out there who aren’t regularly read to. Shocked when teachers tell me that there are children starting school who don’t know which way up a book should go. Disappointed that there isn’t more help for parents who are illiterate. Frustrated that I cannot reach more people to help them have an ‘Ah uh!’ moment where all of a sudden it makes sense to spend that special time reading to our children. I was lucky, my mum read aloud to me growing up. I fell in love with literature. I knew no different. This love is automatically passed down to my daughter, it’s ingrained in me.

Thankfully my dear friend C must have known I was down and out because when she sent me an excerpt from a man called Michael Grose from Parenting Ideas, my brow started to relax again. In his latest newletter he wrote this inspiring piece.

“How stories are important”

“Want to get your kids attention? Then start telling them a story and watch them tune in. “Let me tell you a story ….” is enough to get the attention of even hard-nosed kids. That’s because human beings are hard-wired for stories. Telling and reading stories to kids is a wonderful part of being a parent. “Just one more story, please” is hard to refuse. Story time is a special time that you have with kids that often stays for the rest of their lives. Stories also have enormous benefits for kids. As a former primary teacher and literacy consultant with my state’s education department I know full well the educational benefits of parents reading and telling stories. Reading and story-telling increases kids’ vocabularies, teaches them about cause and effect and sequencing of events, and teaches them more about their expanding world. Here are some non-educational benefits I can think of: 1. Stories help kids deal with feelings and emotions: If you read a story about a child who is afraid of the dark, it helps kids to know that they are not the only ones who feel that way. Hearing the same story many times helps children deal with their fears and other emotions. 2. Stories can help develop a sense of belonging: When parents and grandparents tell stories about themselves (‘When your mum was a little girl……’) this develops a sense of confidence that comes from strong feeling of connection and family history. 3. Stories provide a great sense of escape: A good story stimulates the imagination and takes kids to another world. Getting away from things for a while is an essential mental health skill. 4. Stories build connections between the teller and listener: My adult kids tell me that some of their fondest memories of me revolve around story-time. As one of my kids said, “You may have been a grouch at times but you always lightened up telling a story.” (writer’s footnote: I used to love stories. It was me who used to say ‘one more story….’ at their bed-time) Stories don’t have to be at bed-time. A friend of mine used to read novels to her kids to keep them quiet on long trips. There are plenty of times when you can introduce a book or tell a story. I’m a sucker for stories at bed-time. A special story time at bedtime can help your child look forward to going to bed, to enjoy being close to you and to relax, ready for sleep. Most importantly, your child will thrive by spending TIME with you.”

I have met literally hundreds of parents in the last twelve months who instinctively read aloud to their children. The most popular reason they say they do it though is because their child loves it. That’s enough for them. They know there are benefits, psychologically and academically, but they’re enjoying the memories that they are creating together the best.

I am encouraged again.


3 thoughts on “Encouraged.

  1. I completely empathize with your disappointment. I am shocked when essentially everytime I go shopping or run some quick errands with my kids that complete strangers comment on how wonderful it is to hear a mom talking and explaining what’s in the shop etc….to their children. I tune out to others in the shops and don’t really care what others think as I am absorbed in their fascination with the world. This comes from telling stories and reading stories all day to my kids. The stories in books delve into the imaginations of even very little children and teaches them about our language and how we use it and events in their lives. Experiencing this disappointment is natural when you feel so passionately about something and others don’t feel the same. Don’t let it deter you…..let it encourage you to “spread the word”…..

  2. I don’t remember my parents reading to me when I was young, but I am sure they did, and I have always had a love of literature, so reading has always been an important part of our day and I can’t understand families where this doesn’t happen.

    We don’t always read at bedtime, but at any time of day we do tend to snuggle up in the bed when we read, because it is just as much about spending time with each other in closeness, as it is the joy of reading. And there is always time for “one story more.” 🙂

  3. I remember when I was teaching reading recovery there were so many first graders who could not find the front of the book, did not know that print conveyed meaning. I was suprised then but I am shocked now that I have a 2 year old who understands the basic concepts of print. Of course, I’ve been reading to him since before birth. I wish every kid could just have someone read to them. Unfortunately, I think some good parents just don’t realize what an effect it will have. I had a friend say, “Why would I buy books for a baby? He can’t read.” She wasn’t trying to be uncaring, she honestly did not know! I hope all with all of the literacy blogs springing up the message will get out there.

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