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.
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.
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Image Source : Svante Adermark