Over the past year, my children and I have spent almost every weekday morning reading together while drinking tea or eating tiny portions of our Easter candy for weeks on end. They are all preschoolers and toddlers—ages 5, 4, 2, and nine months—so you would think that I’d not be that interested in our reading material. I’ve enjoyed it, however, as much as they have.
We mostly read around the kitchen table or snuggled together on the couch, but we’ve also read on picnic blankets in the local county forest and lying about in the sunshine on our front porch. I’ve consciously cemented reading time into our family routine for three main reasons: because reading to children is the number-one thing you can do to develop their intellects; to give all members of our family common ideas and experiences that strengthen our minds and relationships; and because we all just plain enjoy it. The quickest way to get any of my children, except the baby, to do anything is to suggest book reading may occur afterwards.
Books Everyone Can Enjoy Together
Ideas about age segregation and “age appropriateness” have their place, but they can create artificial barriers to bonds between generations and even just slightly different age groups. A chief reason to not waste one’s time on a particular book is that it doesn’t appeal broadly outside of a narrow, throwaway market niche. If a book is only interesting to toddlers or middle schoolers because it reflects their immaturity and narrowness (looking at you, “Pinkalicious”) rather than transcends those defects, it’s probably not a very good book. In other words, if mom hates reading a certain book, there’s often a good reason.
Sometimes I will still read books like that, such as the alphabet picture book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” because it has other useful qualities—in this case, helping little people recognize the letters of the alphabet while they giggle at the story. But, as a mother, I mostly get through these sorts of books because I have to, not because I want to. I am not interested in their contents, so I read such books as a service to the little ones who are. We go through it as few times as possible—which is usually many times, because they nag the heck out of me for their favorites—then I return it the library and try to never borrow it again.
The books we read during morning time, on the contrary, are enduring works that appeal to all ages. Yes, there really are books that both toddlers and grown-ups (and everyone in between) can enjoy with deep satisfaction. As your family lolls about during the summer sunshine, think of reading one or several such books together to enhance your own family culture. It offers something to do when the summer blues hit, provides endless material for dinner-table discussions, and knits your hearts and minds together.