There are many reasons why I read to my kids, even when they can already do it on their own. As a kid, books were my best friends. I was born into a family of writers and linguists, and I grew up surrounded by books and manuscripts. I imagined that every house was filled with books as ours was and that reading and writing for fun was the norm. My grandfather and father had a small publishing house, and on weekends my sister and I would help out in the binding process. I can still remember the smell of ink and the steady sound of the printing press.
Saturday evenings, my dad would take us to a bookstore and we would spend most of the evening browsing, reading and then buying a book or two to read during the week. We read together as a family. On school nights, I read under the covers with a flashlight, until my abuelita found me out and would order me to go to sleep. When I didn’t have friends to play with at recess, I would sit in a corner of the playground and read. Books like A Little Princessand Wuthering Heights marked my tween years.
At 10, I wrote my first short stories, which were probably not very good, but I had fun anyway. My sister illustrated them. Our dad printed them on the printing press and we gave them out at school.
I became a published author at 29, before I was a mom. Seventeen titles and two kids later, books are still a big part of my life. When I was pregnant with each of my babies, I would read out loud to them, and after they were born I read to them while they nursed. As my eldest began to crawl while I sat at my desk writing, I would let her play with the volumes in my library. I hoped that by letting her be comfortable handling books, she would eventually be a good reader.
Read Related: Mamiverse Books, a Commitment to Our Children’s Future
The result of spending night after night and many a free moment reading to my girls is that now, at 11 and 8 respectively, they both read—a lot—for fun. We all do. When I need to work on a weekend, I take my laptop and my kids to the local bookstore or library, and I work while they read. My eldest has even blogged for an allowance, and surprised me with her strong opinions.
Three years ago, I created a blended family with another writer, who also grew up watching his own father read and write as a journalist. Now, our home has more books than it does furniture, more manuscripts than TV guides. Our kids see us read and write for a living, and already know the power of the written word.
My kids know my weak spot. They know I may say no to buying a toy, but I rarely say no to buying a book, whether a hard copy or digital format.
I know many families don’t have the time or the energy to read to their kids, or for their own enjoyment. But just as with exercise, any family time spent reading is better than nothing. Reading 15-20 minutes with your children every evening may not seem like much. But over time it will strengthen the bond between you and it will foster a love of reading, which is the foundation of learning, knowledge and creativity.
Even when I’ve been exhausted at the end of a very long day, I’ve made a point of cuddling with my kids to read. Now we each read our own book, snuggled together. When I think back to when they were babies and I sometimes felt silly reading to them when they could not understand, I realize the payoff. And that brings me back to the security I felt reading as a child.
We all need a little nudge now and then, and that’s why we’re launching not only Mamiverse Books, a Latino digital book resource spearheaded by Adriana Dominguez, but a National Pledge Drive for Family Commitment to Reading. I encourage you to take the pledge and share it with your friends and family.
Let’s continue to help our children grow up with a hunger for knowledge, for learning, for academic, personal, and professional success. Reading unlocks the doors to this hunger.