Investing in Reading

at 10:43 PM

The other day I walked into my children's room and found my 10-year-old son reading a book on his bed. Now, if you're a parent, you know you're almost always in for a surprise when you walk into your kid's room unannounced. That he was reading a book didn't surprise me. It was the book he was reading; a children's book of the 10-page cardboard stock variety. One about a brown bear. I asked him if he remembered it from his earlier days. He shrugged me off. I was a bit taken aback.

"Man, I must have read that book 600 times to you. Your mom and I probably memorized it and about 20 other books by the time you were two."

He wasn't impressed.

When our kids were young, my wife and I -- ok, mostly my wife -- constantly consumed all the research stressing the importance of actively reading to children. And here was the result. My son didn't remember the brown bear book. Let down, I pulled another book from the shelf, about a father hare and his son. Did he remember that book?

"Of course," he said. "It's about a father and son and they compete with each other over who loves the other the most." 

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He was spot on.

As I sat there reminiscing over all the time spent reading books together (and we still do every now and then) I realized that it really paid off, not because my son remembered this book or that, but because he and his sister, now a teenager, are both avid readers, devouring novels daily, even stealing away to read a newspaper article here and there. And I know that their love for the written word and storytelling has its roots way back in the beginning of their lives, during their nightly bedtime stories. I also know it's a good idea to keep some of those old books around, because they provide great moments of reflection and storytelling themselves.

So, if in the age of kids who can swipe a screen better than they can flip a page, you're wondering about all those hours you're spending with your infants and toddlers, trust me, it's worth it.

With a Perspective, I'm Josh Gnass.

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Josh Gnass teaches history in Burlingame and lives in San Francisco.

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