Book Review: The Read-Aloud Family

During my trip to Georgia, two of my girlfriends recommended that we go to “The Story Shop” a small, whimsical children’s bookstore. My friends knew of the passion my mom and I have for reading, and they knew that we would fall in love with the store. Children’s literacy is something my family takes seriously. I would consider my family avid readers, and my parent’s tried to instill this from an early age. Both my parents usually have stacks of books they are reading piled throughout the house. My mom is even more involved, specifically in children’s literacy. She is a board member for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Otero County, where they give children one free book each month from birth to five years old. To say that books are a big part of our family, is an understatement.

The bookstore in Georgia was magical. In my life, I’m not sure I have ever walked into a store and felt such whimsy and delight. My friends were right, we fell in love with the store and it further ignited a fire for children’s literature. One friend also recommended the book, The Read-Aloud Family; The book is by Sarah Mackenzie the founder of the Read-Aloud Revival, and focuses on the use of books to make meaningful connections with your children. My friends know me well, because I loved this book and finished it in just a few days.

Throughout the book, Sarah writes of the many benefits of reading aloud to your children. In many ways, I knew the importance of reading to children. Yet she further explains how reading to children from an early age, and continuing throughout their lifetime has exponential effects; Increased vocabulary and grammar are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of reading to children. When children learn to read for themselves, many parents slow down or stop reading to their children, as learning to read at an early age is stressed due to its perceived importance. However, continuing to read to children, even when they can read themselves, helps them continue expanding their vocabulary, imagination, and they are truly able to enjoy a story without focuses merely on decoding words on a page.

Yet despite the academic benefits listed throughout the book, that is not my favorite concept of reading aloud with my children. She wrote one line, that I wrote in my reading journal that is underlined, highlighted, and seared into my mind: “You will never regret time spent reading with your kids.” There is so much simplicity and truth to this. You will never regret sitting with your child in your lap, and fully engaging your time and energy into your child. You will never regret diving fully into a story with your child and watching them laugh and giggle. To me, this is aligns with being present and mindful of your time. Will my children care that the house was meticulously in order throughout their childhood, or would they rather have me spending time reading with them and engaging them in a way they enjoy, meeting them where they are?

This book has inspired me to make subtle changes in our household over the last few days while I read, and altered my perspective on the importance of reading and storytelling. In the car, we now listen to a storybook podcast, and my heart overflows with happiness I was watch my girls in the rear-view mirror laughing hysterically while listening to The Gingerbread Man or Three Billy Goat’s Gruff. I can see their minds working to picture the characters, their brains creating synapses that wouldn’t be forming if they were watching a show on their screens. And when we get home, and they huff and puff and blow the tower of blocks down, while pretending to be the big bad wolf from The Three Little Pigs, I realize that these subtle changes are doing exactly what I hope, creating a love of literature.

This book was inspiring. It opens a door to a new perspective of why we should read books to our children, of any age. It paints the picture of creating meaningful interactions within families, that I don’t think you can get from any other activity. It provides one way as a parent, to create an environment that can open doors to brand new words and interactions. It was George R.R. Martin who said “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” Through books we can expose our children to worlds and concepts that we would otherwise be unable. Through books, and reading aloud to our children we can also expose them to characteristics and traits which we work to foster in our children, not by harping on them, but vicariously through a character.

Sarah writes “Success in parenting my kids means showing up and giving my best to what matters most right now. Which means of course that I have to know what matters most right now.” Right now, in this season of my life, what matters most is raising children who are loved, and happy, and full of exuberance; And right now, one of the simplest, most inexpensive ways to do that is taking the time periodically throughout the day, at night, in the morning, whenever we have time, and reading a book with my children.

** If you are looking for ways to create easy, positive interactions with your kids, this book is something you need. This post contains an affiliate link to purchase the book, it’s no extra cost to you, I could get a little something-something if you use the link. Happy shopping and reading!**

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