Like you, I’m a busy person. I have five children, four of whom play musical instruments. I have an extended family that needs love and attention. I’m actively involved in the community. My husband has a job that requires my help, and it also requires a lot of traveling for him. I’m trying to make a career for myself as a writer of children’s books, which means I have to write every day. It also means I occasionally edit books for other writers.
Today, around two o’clock, my four-year-old crawled into my lap. I was simultaneously reading a friend’s work and trying to work on my own. At two forty-five, I would have to leave to begin picking kids up from school. The house was messy. We have house guests right now, and dinner needed preparing. Laundry needed to be moved over, and on and on.
“Is it time to read books yet?” she said, putting my face between her hands. Seven years ago, when my oldest was four, my answer to that question would unequivocally have been yes. I probably read to my oldest two, many hours a day. This was easy for me because I love to read aloud, and I love children’s books.
But it’s not easy any more. I have so much to do all the time. But Flannery, my youngest, and I only have so much time left with her at home, so I agreed and pulled some short books and a few longer books off the shelf. We read the short books first, so she felt like she’d read “a lot” of books. Then we hit the longer ones.
We made faces, we laughed, we snuggled, and the bond between us grew. I don’t have a lot of time for this kind of one on one bonding, not as much as I did when I just had two or three children, none of whom were in school and involved in a million activities.
Reading packs a bonding punch. Reading with your child is quality time on steroids. It builds brains cells, both theirs and yours. It generates creative thoughts, both theirs and yours. It teaches everyone oral language skills, reading skills, writing skills, and a love of learning. It allows for essential physical contact in the form of a snuggle. You get to know your child when you read books to them. You understand what kinds of stories they love, what questions they have about the world, what makes them laugh, what makes them sad. You can help them find their passions, interests, and desires. Especially if you continue to read even after they can read to themselves.
The other day I was driving home from somewhere, and the thought occurred to me that life can change in an instant. I asked myself what I would do today if I knew things would completely change tomorrow. It didn’t take long for me to decide. I would go home and snuggle with my children, in groups of ones and twos and threes. I would hug them and tell them I loved them, and we would read our favorite stories together. We would talk about them, and while talking about these stories we would talk about our lives. They would know what was important to me, and I would know what was important to them, and we would know we were important to each other.
The number one reason to read to your child is so that you both know how important you are to one another.