Kids, man. They’re hard. Even when they’re perfect angels, you’re constantly plagued by the feeling that you’re failing them in some vital way or another. You worry that your every little action or inaction will result in some terrible character flaw once they become adults. Raising an asshole becomes a very real, very persistent fear. There are plenty of ways to parent, and since kids are just tiny people, there’s no right way for everyone. To me, this makes the job even more difficult. How the heck do you know what’s right for you? Luckily, there IS one fail-safe way to help foster imagination, intelligence, and creativity in every single kid out there, and that is to read to them. Reading to my daughter is literally the only part of my pre-kid parenting plan that didn’t fall through for one reason or another, and honestly, looking back on the different aspects of those ridiculous, naïve, plans (you poor, sweet fool, pre-child Taylor) it’s the only thing that really matters to me now. Below are a few reasons why I think reading my to kid is one of the best things I can do as a parent.
1. Reading is Really Great for Those Tiny Brains.
According to Whitney Houston (RIP you beautiful angel), children are the future, and it’s our role as parents to mold the minds of that future. According to RIF (Reading is Fundamental), “Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.” How can that be bad? There’s countless research to show the vast intellectual and social benefits of reading to children as early as infancy. Seriously. Look it up.
2. Sometimes You Actually Get to Sit Down for a Bit.
I can’t be the only parent who weeps for the days of sitting that I took for granted. Having a toddler means you’re constantly on your feet. I seriously look forward to story time, because it means I can sit down (even if my 20 month old doesn’t) and read to her as she runs around. Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, the kid will even sit down with you while you read to them. It’s magical.
3. Reading Helps Stimulate Language Abilities.
This is especially awesome, because the sooner they can talk the sooner you can figure out what exactly is causing a meltdown or tantrum. Score. Of course it probably won’t make sense to any sane adult, but whatever, you gotta start somewhere.
4. Reading Books Helps You to Teach Kids Things that Seem Obvious to You.
As my daughter and I read through books, she’s always pointing to things and asking what they are. It’s amazing the things you take for granted as common knowledge as an adult. Reading has been a great way for me to help explain the world around her and to see it through her eyes.
5. Raising a Future Nerd Could Have Some Real Benefits.
Raising a kid who would rather stay home and read than go out and party is definitely something I’d be willing to sign up for. Who knows, it could happen, right?
6. It’s Freaking Adorable When They Start to “Read” to Themselves.
I always bring my daughter a book to look at while we’re in the car. I love listening to her read the stories to herself more than any music on any cd or radio station. It’s seriously the most devastatingly adorable thing to hear her name the things she sees throughout the stories and react to the different illustrations.
My biggest piece of advice to new parents (aside from not assuming ANYTHING) is to read to your kids. Read them anything! Children’s books, newspapers, religious manifestos. The first thing I ever read aloud to my daughter was The Brothers Karamazov. Just read to them. Even if they don’t initially want to. Even if you don’t initially want to. I know it can be hard. We actually had to stop going to our local story time because my daughter literally ran circles around the reading ring and growled like a dinosaur (still one of her favorite tricks.) I remember having dreams of a peaceful child sitting eagerly on my lap while I wove magical tales that held her enthralled for chapters after chapters. That never happened, and sometimes it still doesn’t, but I didn’t let that stop me, and I’m so glad. It’s usually the best part of my day with my daughter. Not only does she love it, I do, and the benefits are seriously limitless.