Before we get into today's topic, I want to broach an idea with you. I started the Raising Readers series on this blog more than two years ago. During that time, we've explored such topics as the power of rereading, giving Dad a turn, and creating a library space in your home. I've enjoyed sharing some of the things that have worked in our family as we've tried to cultivate a love of books and reading in our home.
But every family is unique, and I think we could all benefit from hearing from the perspectives and experiences of others. That is why I am now opening up the Raising Readers series to you. If you would be interested in writing a guest post on this topic, please email me: sunlitpages [at] gmail [dot] com. You don't have to have a blog to be eligible (although, if you do, I will definitely link to it). You just need to have a desire to raise a family of readers.
The topics to be explored are as unique as your family. In the past, I've talked about everything from the actual teaching of reading to the importance of reading aloud to great reading material for all levels. Basically, I want you to ask yourself the question, How do I help my family love books? and then share the answer with all of us. I look forward to hearing from you!
And now, let's talk about books and security and how the two go together.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been reading a book called Honey for a Child's Heart, which is kind of like a Raising Readers handbook. Gladys Hunt talks about why books and reading are so important in the raising up of a child and gives suggestions for great books that are worth reading (the book lists at the back of the book are a gold mine).
She said one thing early on that struck me and that I've been thinking about ever since: "Books . . . impart a sense of security." As soon as I read that, I knew it was true. I've felt that sense of security around books my whole life. But why?
We read this book for my education principles group last month, and I took advantage of a captive audience to ask them that very question: Why do books impart a sense of security?
Here are our answers:
Books and reading create a familiar ritual. I am a creature of habit, and I don't think I'm alone in this. As fun as it is to try new things and explore new places, there's something so comforting about coming back to a regular routine. When reading aloud is a part of that routine, we feel safe and content when we're doing it. If there's time and space to read aloud, then it must mean that everything is all right.
Books give the family a shared language. When we experience books together, we create a shared perspective that is unique to our family. Whenever my kids get a day off from school, I think about how Pippi Longstocking went to school just because she wanted the days off. When I see a chocolate coin, I think about when John Midas bit into his friend, Susan's, birthday silver dollar and it instantly turned to chocolate in his mouth. I can't see a picture of a salmon without thinking about the time Henry Huggins caught a king salmon (a chinook) with his bare hands. I could mention any of these things to my kids, and they would know exactly what I was talking about (whereas the rest of you might think I was crazy). Books create the shared language, experiences, perspectives, and, yes, even inside jokes that are so important to creating a family culture. When you know that someone else will be able to relate, you feel secure.
Reading aloud provides an opportunity to be physically close to one another. One of the moms in our education group mentioned that she is generally not a very touchy-feely person. Her daughter, however, is. When they read together, they sit side-by-side in the recliner, which gives the daughter the physical closeness she wants but does it in a way the mom feels comfortable with. In our family, it's kind of the opposite. One of the boys doesn't love cuddles and often squirms out of my reach while telling me I'm "squishing" him. But when we're reading together, he invariably wants to sidle up close. In fact, when I read aloud to the boys at night, they usually rotate who gets to sit with me so that they all get a turn. This gives them some one-on-one time within the larger family activity.
Reading aloud is an activity that even very young children can be a part of. My mom likes to remind us that my younger brother listened to A Little Princess when he was only three years old. She claims he loved and understood it, and while I don't doubt the truthfulness of that, I also think that, whether he actually liked it or not, the chance to be with the family was a major incentive. In Honey for a Child's Heart, Gladys Hunt said, "The youngest, even if she doesn't always understand, feels the comfortable security of the parent's voice and of being included in the 'inner circle.'" I've seen this in our own home with Bradley. Sometimes he really loves what we're reading aloud, but often times, he's there simply because it's a comfortable environment--part of our routine where he gets a turn to sit by me.
Books give children a chance to explore difficult subjects in a safe environment. The more you read together, the more you encounter a variety of topics. Some of them are fun and silly, but many of them are quite serious: death, illness, divorce, bullying, feeling left out, danger, and fear take a part in many books for children. Reading about these things feels safe because none of them are actually happening to you. However, your family may be going through something similar (or you may know someone else who is), and reading a story with one of these themes can open up the door to a much-needed discussion.
I'm sure there are many more ways that "books impart a sense of security." Please share your ideas in the comments. (And don't forget, if you'd like to share your family's own unique experience of raising readers in a future guest post, email me: sunlitpages [at] gmail [dot] com.)