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 kids' 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."
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.