Every family has daily chores to do and lucky children are assigned things that they can handle and feel good about, making their contributions to smoothly functioning home. There are other “must-do” things that fall to them alone because they are personal, like hand washing and teeth brushing.
Eventually, as children mature, they learn to adapt and to adopt positive, healthy habits as part of becoming independent and fully functioning in their lives.
Daily routines, even those that are duties and have-tos, give structure to children’s lives. However, specific habits that are delightful and fulfilling provide the sweet flavoring to a life that might otherwise be automatic or mundane.
An individual child’s bright spots in a normal day are generally expressions of their own personal tastes and preferences, activities and engagements that color and brighten the normal stuff.
Finding oneself with free time and space is the icing on the cake of life. It is rare that under such circumstances a child will say, “So, are there any other chores I should be doing around the house?”
I mention all of this because it’s much too common that children’s bedtime or daily book reading becomes part of a mundane, daily routine–like doing dishes after dinner. It’s an important part of life, but too often becomes more of a duty than an opportunity.
Adults try to be focused and efficient when faced with a “have-to” like vacuuming the floor or shoveling the walkway. However, none of that will be operating when children find themselves with free time. Kids always know what they want to do and race with elated enthusiasm to do it. That same excited energy should absolutely always accompany their reading of self-selected books at bedtime or any time.
No hurry. No worry. No time limits. No distractions.
Children who are read to early and often in this carefree, relaxed manner, develop the anticipation of calm settling-in to join with their currently favorite book characters in the latest adventures. Or, perhaps they embrace the opportunity to fill in the blanks in their mental information database or sharpen the vagueness of their understandings about some compelling aspect of their world and how it works.
As parents and older siblings sit down to read a great book for or with an excited young one, the spirit that accompanies this sharing must always feel like generously dishing up a delectable dessert for everyone to enjoy.
The last thing that children must associate with reading delightful books, alone or with others, should be watching the clock, harboring concern about interruptions or intrusions, and having a parent or sitter pull the plug right in the middle of something wonderful on page 33.
Relaxed daily reading of personally mesmerizing books is what initiates and builds the habit of reading and the promise of lifelong learning. Supporting that may very well be the finest contribution that a family can make in supporting a child’s development throughout their lives.