There is something about books that can't be replaced with technology. It may be the tactile feeling of a book in your hand; turning the crisp pages of a new tome you have waited for by your favorite author or the crackle of the spine as you forge on to the best part. It could be the artwork of a cover beckoning you like a siren, the promise a journey into the unknown all shaped by the words we use in our language, juxtaposed in an infinite number of ways that challenge our minds to grasp what we have just heard and convert that to an image that we see in our heads.
I have read to my children since they were in the womb so they knew my voice. Mothers get that connection right away because the child hears the mother's voice more because they are always together. The moment those baby books told me that hearing my voice was important, books became our connection. It was a way for me to let my children know that I was there and that as their dad, we could go on adventures with just my voice.
Sure, technology is wonderful and advances in it have provided our children with apps and programs we never thought possible. I have seen my own children become immersed in this movement. However, when something made of paper makes your children curl up on their bed for hours or disappear right after dinner because they can't wait to read in bed, that is powerful.
Reading to my children has become such a special thing in my life and I have seen it pay off. It has brought me closer to my children than I would have ever imagined. From volunteering to read in their classrooms on special days to attending library workshops I have seen them blossom into little readers themselves.
My kids were early talkers and I would like to attribute that mostly to books. My son, now nine and in third grade, is already reading at a fourth grade level. Every year for his birthday, he is given the next book in the Harry Potter series and we read it together. I love that I am part of his journey as the story unfolds and that I get to talk to him about something we are both passionate about. It's like our own private book club. My daughter at six, is currently learning to read. We work on her sight words everyday. Those are words that are recognizable without sounding them out. Once she learns these frequent words, she will be able to read and write sentences with ease. It's never too early to teach your kids literacy. My three year old is learning letters by saying her ABCs and hearing me repeat them over and over in the books we read will help her recognize them.
We treat the library like a sacred institution and to my kids, picking out new library books is akin to a treasure hunt that always ends in gold. One of the greatest things about the library and reading is that it is completely FREE!
Engage your kids with books early and often. Some ways we get our kids involved is by attending storytimes at our local library and then allowing each kid to take out five books they want to read for those two weeks. During the nighttime routine, we read books every night before they go to bed. We have found that it calms them down from the day's hectic activity and quiets their minds before sleeping when so much stimulus during the day has wound them up.
Unfortunately, not all dads are like me. Only 13% of dads say they are the "main reader" with their kids. That is a staggering number that needs to change. Something like reading to your child can make such a difference in their lives. It depends mostly on the behavior that we model to our children. If they see that we like reading for pleasure, so will they. If we invest in them through reading it will pay off in their education. Children whose fathers read to them are more likely to get A's on their report card, participate in sports and clubs, enjoy school, and be a year or more ahead in school!
So how can you help turn this around? Simple. Devote your time to READ, READ, READ. Become a part of #DadsRead, an initiative dedicated to getting fathers reading to their children so we can change this attitude and belief that reading to our children doesn't matter in their lives. If you don't know what to read, here are some of my favorite dad themed books to get you started:
1) FASTER, FASTER by Lisa Patricelli
My 3 year old loves the extremes that this dad goes through for his daughter
2) My Daddy Is A GIANT by Carl Norac
The way our kids perceive us is important
3) Oh Daddy! by Bob Shea
Are you the kind of dad that does silly things to make you kids laugh?
4) My Father Is Taller Than A Tree by Joseph Bruchat
Full of all those wonderful things dads do for their kids
5) I Love My Pirate Papa by Laura Leuck
Follow all the things this pirate and his son do together with surprise a ending
6) When Dads Don't Grow Up by Marjorie Blain Parker
Are you a dad that refuses to grow up? It's good for your kids!