After I posted my children’s story, Cowboy’s Day On The Trail, somebody asked me what age range it was written for. I had to think about that, and came up with a range of 4-6 years, and it was really designed to be read out loud to a child. My mom read to us constantly and it seemed obvious to me that some stories are designed for that. Turns out the person who asked the question, and who does love to read, had not been read to as a child, making me reflect on how much I had taken that childhood pleasure for granted.
Mom loved to read to us, and she was good at it. She got all the inflections right and it was like a little mini-theater performance in our living room. I suspect she learned that from listening to radio when she was a child. It wasn’t an entirely selfless act on her part–we had to rub her back while she read to us. Even then, I wasn’t the touchy-feely type, and I learned to read at an early age so I could enjoy the stories and skip the back-rubbing. Mom’s been gone about three years now and I’d give a lot to be able to rub her back again! She wouldn’t even have to read to me, although that would be nice.
Studies have shown that children who are read to experience a wide range of benefits, including learning to read earlier themselves, developing better imagery and language skills, and bonding with their parents. Check out this article that goes into more technical details This is What Happens When You Read To A Child.
My brother and sister and I did gain the benefits listed in the article. We’re all readers and in addition, we can tell a pretty good story. But what I loved was the ability to have an adventure right there in our living room on a chicken farm in Northern California. Sitting on the couch, tickling Mom’s back, we traveled to France with Madeline, found our way around cities with “city kids”, rounded up ponies on Assateague Island, and generally found out that there was a lot of life to be lived outside our safe little bubble. We developed a thirst, not only for reading and the well-written word, but for adventure and for seeing the world. We also found out that there are perspectives other than our own that have value and need to be honored.
So if you aren’t already reading to your kids or grandkids, start! You have an opportunity to bond with a child and to plant the seeds of learning, curiosity, and expanded horizons.