Picture this: Soft lamp light falls over the shoulder of a mom and child snuggled in a beautiful wing chair holding a picture book. Both their faces absolutely radiate joy as they gaze at the page together!
The child is in the cutest jammies you have ever seen, Mom is relaxed and confident – calm, maybe even serene, totally confident in her role of mother and teacher of her precious child! Pull back and the room they are sitting in looks like something out of a home magazine – there is probably a string quartet in the next room providing classical music to read by that sets the tone of peace and love and serenity…
It’s not like that in your house?
Your family’s daily routine is not beautifully sculpted to flow gently and calmly from one magic moment to the next? Now that’s a surprise! (NOT!)
Why is reality always around the next corner waiting for you with a bucket of ice?
Because that’s one big piece of the parenting pie: opportunities to teach your children by your example that when life throws you a bucket of ice, you make ice cream!
Over and over and over again!
Some days, your world is only as big as putting one foot in front of the other to keep going, but that doesn’t work if you’re a parent. You have a different center of your universe now, your child. And that child needs you to be on your “A Game” every waking second of every day! We all know that isn’t possible, so we desperately need back-up plans for just about everything we’re responsible for in our children’s lives: back-up for the carpool when the car won’t start or we’re too sick to drive, back-up for when a child gets sick at school and we’re at the dentist in the middle of a root canal, back-up when we are at the breaking point but it’s still 3 hours ‘til bedtime, back-up meals for when they need to eat but you can’t manage one more thing (boxed mac and cheese was always in our cabinet). But, do we need back-ups for reading to our child? Can’t we just put it off ‘til tomorrow or the weekend? It’s just another book, how important can one book be?
Actually, no, we can’t put it off; no, it’s not just one more book; and it’s very important.
Reading to your child IS that important! Reading to your child every day is a proven key to school success; it helps build the language skills necessary to understand what is being taught in school AND to work/play/engage with others.
(Google “Why it’s important to read to my child every day”)
So, just like we build back-ups into other areas of our life as a parent, we need back-ups for reading, also. Just like we plan ahead for hurricanes and other emergencies, we should plan ahead for reading with our children! Here’s a list of ideas to get you started on packing your “Reading Back-Up Kit”:
- Make it easy! Have a designated bookshelf in your home so you always know where to quickly look for a book to read.
- And easier! Have “special places” to read figured out ahead of time: comfy chair, on your child’s bed, under the table, in the bathtub, at the kitchen table, in a closet with a pillow and flashlight, in a tent made from sheets or a fort made from pillows, under a tree in the yard on a blanket you keep in the laundry room. Being able to say, “find a book and get in our nook” to your child when they know where to find a book and know where your “special reading nook” is make it easier to grab a few minutes to read.
- Big rule! No phones or electronics in the nook! Make it a tech free zone, the only connection needed is between you and your child! This sends a clear message that they are very important!
- But there are exceptions to every rule! When you have some time, record yourself reading to your child! Keep 2 or 3 children’s books in your car; next time you are waiting in line for a prescription or in the school pickup grab a book and your phone and record yourself reading the book aloud – be sure to say “turn the page” when it is time to do that. Once you’re more comfortable doing this, talk about the pictures or throw in a personal connection to the story to make it even better! Then when you need an “emergency reader”, you have one ready to go.
- One more exception! Use FaceTime or Skype to get your extended family reading to your child. This will take some advance planning because both the reader and the child being read to will need a copy of the book. Grammie reads from her copy while your child holds his/her copy and follows along. Grammie can share personal connections, talk about the pictures, tell about when Mommy or Daddy did something similar.
- And… Skype and FaceTime also work when one parent travels on business or deploys with the military. Children’s books are available electronically (often for free from the public library), but it does take some preplanning to set that up ahead of time. Using books that your child can physically hold while being read to makes this a more personal experience. It’s hard to leave a child and that often makes those FaceTime love grabs very emotional (and that is not fair to the “at home” parent especially at bedtime), having a book to focus on for your together time gives you so much more to focus on than being apart. And what a great message to give your child about how important reading and learning are to you!
- Finally, be like the Coast Guard: Always Ready! Keep a few books in your car or on your cell phone or in your child’s “go bag”. When you have a book handy, you’re “always ready” to spend quality time with your child!
Reading emergencies happen, be ready!