When my great-grandpa, Warren, was in his 90’s, his mind was incredibly sharp. He could remember details of specific events that had occurred in his life well over 80 years earlier when he was just a young boy.
Sitting in his chair, I can still hear him entertaining us great-grandchildren with his recitation of poetry. I was always amazed at his remarkable memory. I can barely remember what happened last week, let alone 80 years ago!
So one day I asked him the key to his sharp mind and remarkable memory. Want to know what the secret was? His family didn’t have a dishwasher. (Hard for people in our day in age to imagine!)
I know, I know, what you’re thinking. What does not having a dishwasher have to do with a man in his 90’s ability to recall poetry he learned when he was a young boy? Everything.
After each meal, instead of his family leaving the table and heading to their own television, computer or I-phone, what did they do? They all helped in the kitchen until the dishes were washed, dried and put away.
During the time that this family spent in the kitchen doing the dishes, what happened? Something important. Their mother taught them poetry and songs. Together they sang and recited poetry together. They talked. They laughed. And they did this day after day after day.
Their mother, a school teacher, knew what she was doing. She knew the importance of auditory and rote learning. Having her children repeat what she wanted them to learn, over and over again, embedded information into their minds that they would be able to recall decades later!
And the funny part is, as my great-grandpa reiterated, at the time, he and his siblings had no idea what their mother was doing. They were just trying to get the dishes done as they were required to do. The songs and poetry were a way to help make their chore fun, at least that’s what they thought!
With no other entertainment, oral communication, through the use of songs, poetry, reading out loud and storytelling were a way of life for my great-grandpa and his siblings. Their ability to think, their vocabulary, reading and comprehension levels, were all extremely higher than our current “dumbed down” generations.
How things have changed since my great-grandpa was a little boy! Now the average child watches between 25-30 hours of television a week. Hands down, it’s the greatest influence on a child in our culture.
In our busyness of running from one thing to another, we have let a tablet, an I-pad, or a television raise up our children. No longer are our children being trained to listen, think and imagine on their own. Instead, whatever electronic device they use does it all for them. And the result? We have a dumbed down culture that is producing children who have no ability to think, listen or imagine.
If you still have children at home, it’s not too late to change your habits. But the sooner you can do it the better! Put away the electronics as a family. Instead, engage in one of the greatest things you can do for your children is to read out loud together.
Instead of leaving the dinner table and letting everyone go stare at a screen, grab an old classic book and read out loud together. Find a book that you enjoy and that your children will love. Maybe it’s C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter, Anne of Green Gables or the hundreds of other great books that your family will love. Maybe it’s reading a chapter of Proverbs each night. Whatever it is, spend 15-20 minutes a night, before the children go to bed and read out loud.
Start your children at a young age and continue this habit even when they are into their teenage years. One of my favorite things as a mother is to read books with our 15-month old little girl, Ivy. She loves it! Every night as we prepare for bed, she always says “books” and shows her excitement as we read through the same book, over and over and over again.
Here are 3 great reasons on why you should be reading out loud to your children (if you aren’t doing so already).
- By doing so, you are spending quality, distraction-free time with your family.
My siblings who have children ranging from 3 years to 15 years old, gather their families together and read out loud whatever book that they are going through. The children enjoy it, the parents enjoy it. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Families spend a lot of their time together distracted. Parents are running kids from soccer practice, to art lessons, to music, to theater, and so forth. Our days are filled with busy work (and for a good reason).
But, by setting some time out in your day to read out loud to your children, you are choosing to slow down, take a deep breath and enjoy your time with your children before they are grown up and out the door. Talk to anyone who has grown children and they will tell you what? Savor the time with your children because it goes by so fast.
Have you ever heard a parent say they wish they would have read less books with their children? Or wished they would have had less time as a family talking, laughing, or singing together? It doesn’t happen.
- You are building your child’s language patterns.
How does your child learn to talk? By mimicking you and everyone else they hear. Our daughter, who is learning how to talk, repeats everything we say, or at least attempts to. After hearing her father and I tell our two Aussie’s repeatedly to stay out of the kitchen, what does she now say? She tells the dogs to “get”.
As I mentioned earlier, what is the greatest influence on the majority of children in today’s culture? Television. A child who spends 25-30 hours a week in front of a television hears the language and vocabulary spewed out from whatever they are watching. (Next time your child is watching something, listen to the words that are being ingrained into your child’s mind.)
Reading stories, especially stories which are a level above your child’s reading comprehension, introduces new vocabulary to your children and builds your child’s language pattern.
- You are increasing your child’s brain growth, literally.
Memorization has a neurophysiological influence on your child’s brain. What happens when your child hears you speak, whether through conversation, through reading a book or even singing a song? The memorization of language naturally takes place.
New words and concepts are introduced and ingrained into your child’s brain. Your child’s vocabulary grows and these words are then available for use in conversation.
When you read the classic great books to your children, they are listening to new vocabulary, building their listening comprehension and flexing their imagination muscles all at the same time. They have to think for themselves to follow and understand the story, rather than letting the television or computer to do it for them.
Reading out loud challenges your child. It forces your child to “flex” his or her brain and consequently, causes it to grow.
Parents, are you willing to take the time out of your day and read to your children out loud? Grab a book, gather your children and enjoy the time you have with them while you can. You will reap what you sow!