Some of the richest learning experiences come from allowing ourselves to learn from unexpected sources. I have learned a lot this year in reading nightly with my ten year old son. As a professional author I ALWAYS say that one of the most important jobs a parent has is reading to his or her child--and not just reading with them when they're little--we should keep it going long into their lives--make it a family book club of sorts.
1.) Reading together is an intimate but social event that requires you to disconnect from social media and focus on having very important downtime with your child. That downtime teaches your child that he or she matters. It builds a bond between the two of you and increases their self-esteem, thereby helping them develop a shield against the negativity they will likely face at some future point in their life.
2.) Reading together helps build a child's vocabulary and strengthens their ability to visualize. A good vocabulary has obvious benefits (especially considering the insane importance testing currently has) and visualization will help your child imagine better ways to solve problems and enable them to set more appropriate and achievable goals.
But this next reason is the one I most often talk about in public...
3.) By reading with your child you open the door to handling what are otherwise difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible topics that you know you need to tackle--and soon--but that we parents are seldom taught how to tackle. YA novels address all sorts of topics that scare the crap out of parents: sex and sexuality, drugs and alcohol use and abuse, bullying, physical and mental or emotional abuse, eating disorders, psychological issues, death, spirituality and religion, discrimination... The list goes on and on. And we can't expect teachers to handle all of those topics (especially as it frequently seems the folks hiding their heads in the sand about the real behavior of kids are the ones screaming that teachers have no right to address those topics). So it falls on us.
Lucky us, right?
It can be the hardest thing--to start those discussions (and we dare not wait until something happens to our child, and only then, talk about the repercussions our kids are probably already suffering under).
Now imagine if an author gives you an easy in? You're reading along in, let's say, THE GIVER and (spoiler) you get to the release of the newchild twin. You can talk about: Communist China, population control and the issue of potential starvation in a community, the difference between what citizens believe is happening and the truth, euthanasia, the value of every human life...
There are so many big and important topics--things you (as a parent) surely have opinions on that you should discuss with your child. Things your child needs to think about and form opinions about--with your guidance.
Take the opportunity books give you. Use every opportunity we authors allow you.
Why am I blogging about this now?
Because reading THE GIVER by Lois Lowry with The Boy has been educational for both of us. At only ten years of age, The Boy doesn't have the background in history to easily draw comparisons between fact and fiction so it's a parent's job to fill in the gaps in his knowledge and help him understand that this Newberry Medal winner is not only a what-could-be but in many ways it shows glimpses of moments and attitudes similar to what-has-been. I can see the wheels turning in his head and I know--because I'm reading with him--that I can come back to this book (and this shared experience) again and again in the future. The value of this experience will not fade.
So read with your child--you'll both learn so much--together,