I know it is not the popular thing to say and I am not proud of it, but it is the truth. I have nothing against reading. In fact, the older I get the more I like to read. Ever since graduating from college, I find myself wanting to learn more in my full-time field of work and about the successful figures that have come before me and how they got to where they did. I even made it a New Year’s resolution in 2016 to read a book a month – and I did it. I know that might not be impressive to most of you, and it’s not meant to be, but it became a goal of mine because I found that my free time was getting more sparse as I got married and had kids.
Why I don’t like reading to my kids
After coming home from work, playing with my son and holding my daughter while my wife is preparing supper, and then eating, cleaning up, spending a little more time with the family – it is time for bed.
The bedtime routine for our kids isn’t like my routine where I can shower, shave (once a month, I have the face of a 12 year-old), brush my teeth and change my clothes. I can do all of this within 20 minutes.
When it comes to putting our kids to bed, especially our son Jude, it is a process. Most of the time he is busy at play and does not want to be disturbed for something as silly as getting ready for bed. After getting him to put his toys away (sometimes) and head upstairs, which takes about 15 minutes, my wife and I start the real process of getting him to bed. We first start with going to the bathroom. Sometimes he will go right away and other times he will just sit or stand there and then finally go. After that, we wash our hands and then brush his teeth. Again, this can be a 5 minute job or a 15 minute job. It just depends on the day.
Once all this is done, we will take a bath if it is needed. The older he gets, the more particular he gets about the water in the tub. He is like Goldilocks, not too hot and not too cold. Even though I test the water myself to make sure it is okay, it takes him awhile to approve the water temperature. Depending on my ability to get the water temperature “just right” and my son’s approval on the water temperature, this can take an additional 15 to 30 minutes. Once we are done with the bath, we will dry him off and put on his pajamas. He started to having preferences at the the age of two on what pair of pajamas he wants to wear that night. Some nights he wears footie pajamas and other nights he insists on a pair of pajama bottoms and a different pair of pajama tops. Again, this can be another 5 minute or 15 minute process. Once dressed we will say our prayers and then he wants us to read to him. Did you hear that, I said HE WANTS US TO READ TO HIM before going to bed.
So, why don’t I like to read to my kids? Well, if you count up all the minutes above, from the start of getting ready for bed to the time he wants us to read to him, we have been at this for somewhere between 40 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes. At this point I am tired of the process, they are tired, and I just want to get them to sleep.
When I read to my kids, I feel like they aren’t paying attention. Granted, my daughter is only a baby, but my son doesn’t seem to pay attention. When he does, he likes to flip through random pages and point things on the page. My preference when reading to my kids is to start the book from the beginning and go all the way through until the end. For some reason, I’m wired in that linear, must-do-things-in-order way and it bugs me to skip around and not finish a book.
When my wife reads to our kids, she comes at it from the perspective of a teacher (she teaches writing at a community college). She sees reading to him as quality time to spend together. Language development is her primary focus when reading to him. She has no problem skipping around to random pages and talking about the images on the page and also making up her own story along the way. Her goal is talking and language development, not necessarily finishing the book.
I do it anyway
Most people I know read to their children but few ever know “why” they should read to their children. Like I said above, I don’t like reading to my kids, but here’s why I do: I want to be the best parent I can be. That means putting aside my preferences and putting my kids’ needs first. I want my kids to have every opportunity that I can give them, and reading is one of the opportunities that I can give them. I want my kids to be learners their entire lives. And as kids, their brains are growing and I want to stimulate their brains at an early age and challenge them. Also, I read to them because even though I might be tired of the bedtime process and have things that I want to do, it might be the only time that I get to spend with my son with him sitting on my lap. Before I know it, he will be too old to sit on my lap, so I want to take advantage of the opportunities while I have them.
Also, my son has particular books that he likes me to read to him night after night. Here are some of his current favorite books:
- A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer
- Policeman Small by Lois Lenski
- Corduroy by Don Freeman
- Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton
- The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
- Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory by Margret and H.A. Rey
In reading these books over and over to him, I can see him thinking. He has gotten to the point where he can tell me what is happening on the page before I even tell him. This is exciting as a parent, to see your kids growing and thinking right before your very eyes.