The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 22, 2012

Sarah Coyne: Reading to children a vital practice

By Sarah Coyne
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — I putter through the living room and kitchen, removing toys and clothes from their unlawful resting places while the kids splash in the bathtub. It’s bound to be a slippery mess in there, but I savor the few minutes of space.

Some nights, I claim victories that speak only to hygiene, and I fear this night will be one of them. The girls will be washed, brushed and dressed before I’ll rush them into their beds.

Anything frivolous will have to be tossed overboard so the day’s weight won’t capsize my barge. Because “barging” is exactly what I end up doing: plowing dutifully forward without slowing or noticing the beauty of the waves.

In the hallway, I trip over a stack of books and actually smile at the toppled pile. Having children who are both willing and able to read -- alone -- just might be my most hoped-for dream.

I look backwards into my own childhood and see adventures and emotions and discoveries that happened for me within the pages of books, and I want that for my own children, too.

Although she’s still some months away from being able to immerse herself in an exciting chapter book, my kindergartner is reading beginner stories with pride. The stack of books is a happy reminder of her progress.

But on this exhausted evening, the books also pester me with awareness -- we need to take time to read. Every night. Yes, even the nights that find me counting the minutes until silence will fall around me.

I bend to straighten the picture books and hear my conscience harping -- exposing my kids to books and stories daily is one of the most important ways I can help foster a love of reading.

It is one of the most important ways I can help my 6-year-old practice her newfound skills. It is one of the most important ways we can be close and connected without relying on technology or outings.

Reading is not frivolous, it’s vital.

Up until this point in my life as a parent, I’ve mostly approached children’s books with entertainment in mind. While I absolutely want my kids to come away from our reading sessions with enjoyment being central to their experience, it’s also becoming clear that it can’t be my only motivation to get us reading.

 

Sarah Coyne lives in Joplin. She writes about life and motherhood at her personal blog, http://thisheavenlylife. blogspot.com.