The Joy of Reading Together by Holly Niner
The swing hung from the branch of a willow tree split in two by lightening. It was my quiet place. Under its shade I observed the world, contemplated life and read more books than I can count. The books came from a wonderful city library with circular stair cases and a heady book-smell, a school library with a librarian that knew her students, and as gifts from my parents. In those days of five TV channels and no air conditioning, being outside with a book was the best way to spend a summer day.
That still-remembered school librarian, Miss Moruski, suggested a friend and I pick our books together so we could trade mid-week or we would run out of books to read. She told my mother she didn’t know what to do because she thought I’d read all the books in the library. There are books in every room in our home, even the bathroom and boxes in the basement. Whether I have an hour or five minutes, as soon as I begin reading I am drawn in. I am there. That is the beauty, the power of words well written. They transport you to other times, places and lives. It’s no secret-
I LOVE to READ!
And so I began reading to my children before they were born. Books were a big part of every day. We read not just at the traditional nap or bed time, but anytime in between-to settle down, when we were waiting somewhere, sometimes at meals and always on car trips. Books were the one thing they could always talk me into buying!
My son and daughter are 22 months apart. Those early books, Little Critter and The Berenstain Bears, were funny and helpful. We read books to explain or try to explain the world. I still remember the impact Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting had on them. And Dr. Seuss-laughter and the joy of playing with words! Together they heard books that might be seen as traditionally boy or girl. They both loved Junie B. Jones and Henry and Mudge, American Girl stories and sports stories by Matt Christopher. We all loved mysteries so we made our way through many a Box Car Children book. Reading the comics page in the evening paper together, was a tradition my dad started with me. Eventually they were reading on their own, but we always had a book going together.
They are now married, but some of my best memories (and I think theirs) are of times we spent reading together. I loved winter/summer break or snow days because we could read more. There’s nothing better than snow piling up, a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. We read together until high school schedules got too hectic. Books were a wonderful way to spend time together, but they also led to discussion and a deeper understanding of my children and maybe them of me as we talked about books. The Chronicles of Narnia, Wrinkle in Time and Golden Compass series brought on discussions about life, science and religion.
We are still a family of readers. This year, books were the #1 present under the tree. And we still discuss and recommend books to each other. My daughter was the more reluctant reader when she began, but we persisted in encouraging her (if you were reading you could stay up an extra 30 minutes!) and now she reads circles around her brother, finishing series they both enjoy (Game of Thrones, The Name of the Wind) long before him. And we were all excited to read and discuss Philip Pullman’s Book of Dust.
As parents we don’t get the chance to run various simulations and see which works best when we raise our children, so I can’t say for sure, but I think reading, particularly reading together lead to my children being successful in school, in college and beyond. I’m proud to have a PhD physicist and a master’s level dietitian as children. And I know reading together added to our relationships with each other.
The world children come into is ever changing. I didn’t have to worry about cell phones and tablets distracting my children from books. Since we never had cable, TV wasn’t a big problem. I know I’m preaching to the choir at a place called Nerdy Book Club, but I hope adults can put down their digital world and model the joy of reading. Let’s read with our children and, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss, oh the places they will go!
Holly Niner is a speech therapist, book lover and children’s author. Her books include, No More Noisy Nights (Flashlight Press), The Day I Ran Away (Flashlight Press), both received a Gold Mom’s Choice award, Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD (Albert Whitman) which received the 2005 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award, and I Can’t Stop: A Story about Tourette Syndrome (Albert Whitman) which was the winner of the 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award and a 2005 Bank Street College of Education Best Book. She has had numerous stories published in children’s magazines. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana with her husband, in a home with books on bookshelves, on tables, in boxes, even in the bathroom! Find her at hollyniner.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.