For as long as I can remember, reading has been a great joy in my life. While becoming a parent has definitely hindered my old, much-loved habit of getting through at least a novel every week or so (time is limited now, and I'm tired, folks), it has introduced me to new joys: rediscovering my favorite childhood books through my own kids, seeing the joy a funny, silly, or thrilling story can bring them, and helping my daughter, now 7, learn to read herself.
The last of those pretty much dominated most of her kindergarten and first grade years, and our nighttime routine shifted from me reading her my favorite kid books to her reading me hers, both for fun and to practice her word-recognition skills. This year, however, as a second-grader, she's got it down, gobbling up chapter books all by herself and learning to "read in her head," as she calls it. As proud of her as I am for gaining such important skills that will serve her well over her lifetime, I have to say, I also felt a little left out.
We connect on the kind of deeper level that every parent wants to reach with their child.
So this past Fall, I asked if she'd like to switch it up a bit. Instead of her reading me a short book or two before bed, how about we picked a more challenging chapter book, one without pictures on every page, and I would read it to her? She was down with the experiment.
We started with a book her school had assigned, Because of Winn-Dixie, which we both instantly loved. (She did not, however, enjoy the southern accent I tried out while reading certain characters, but that's another story.) Next, we moved on to Charlotte's Web, a little slower in the beginning but just as sad at the end as I remembered. And we're currently working our way through Wonder, our most complicated and engaging pick yet.
Somewhere along the line, reading out loud to her has become my favorite part of the day. Part of it is because she — my spirited, precocious, often exasperating daughter — really slows down to listen and absorb what we're reading. I love watching her appreciate a pastime that has always been such a central part of my own identity.
But most importantly, through books, I can see how she's growing and changing and learning about the world around her. Winn-Dixie inspired us to discuss how not all children live in a home with two parents and a comfortable income. Through Charlotte's Web, we talked about loyalty and friendship and how to honor those we love after they leave us. And Wonder is teaching her about what's important to look for in a friend and how to see through others' exteriors to find both the good and bad within.
Because she's not focused just on reading the words on the page, she can really ponder what they mean. She asks me thoughtful questions, and we have serious conversations about the stories we're reading and how they relate to her life now or will in the future. We connect on the kind of deeper level that every parent wants to reach with their child.
So much of our life is about getting to the next step — making the school bus, cooking and eating meals, racing to extracurricular activities, completing homework assignments — that having just a few minutes a day that are about being in the moment feels beyond precious. And if I pass along my love and excitement for reading, then count me doubly lucky.