Writers’ Blokke
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Writers’ Blokke

Why we still read to our 11-year-old son.

And why I’d encourage you to keep reading to your kids.

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

When I tell other parents that we still read to our son at bedtime, the reaction is always interesting. Many people give you a polite nod and go “oh, really? We gave up on doing that ages ago”. The faux politeness comes with a look of what they’re actually thinking. This ranges from the “seriously, why? Is there something wrong with your kid? Can’t he read?” to the “God, I’m so glad I don’t HAVE to do that anymore. I just leave him to read in bed on his own until lights out. Then I can get on with my own stuff finally.”

In between these looks are the parents who clearly thinking you’ve got a screw loose or you are a helicopter parent, who won’t let go of the apron strings clinging onto the last bastions of childhood with your kid as long as possible.

To be honest, none of these are true. It comes down to a couple of simple reasons. Okay there might be more than two. The biggest one, and by far the most important one is that we enjoy it. I don’t just mean my husband and I (who have turnabout reading) but our son really likes it. In fact, when he stays at his grandpa’s, his grandpa reads to him too — there aren’t any questions about it, it just happens, and they both enjoy it.

Our son enjoys it so much and expects it as part of his bedtime routine that we have made the parental mistake of using it as a punishment tool when he is not doing any of his other bedtime routine — cleaning the teeth, pjs, actually going to bed! I don’t recommend this at all. We have ended up with more arguments and a longer, angry bedtime than if we had not taken story time away. Such is its importance.

Reading to our son as he snuggles down in bed ready for sleep is an important bonding time for us all. Our son often has difficult emotional days due to his PTSD (from early childhood trauma in his birth family) and this calm, snuggle gives each of us a time to repair and reset for the next day. The calmness lowers his cortisol levels meaning he sleeps better and is healthier.

There are many proven benefits to reading to children. Least of all is language development. It can help expand their vocabulary, develop understanding of new words and improve their spelling. We have certainly found this.

Our son is what teachers would describe as a “reluctant reader”. If I’m honest, he’s more of a “refuse to read” rather than reluctant. He goes through phases where he refuses to read anything — even if there is a chance he could benefit. He won’t read board game rules, competition guidelines, the text in his Pokemon or Minecraft books, preferring to look at the images and numbers and guess the rest. This is not ideal. So, we figured a way to improve this.

With the board game — it is simply we don’t play if he doesn’t read the rules. Or he has to play by the ones we make up meaning we will almost certainly win — this is a bit harsh, but you do begin to get exhausted hearing yourself say “you need to read the words” over and over again. At bedtime, we have the agreement that he must read two pages of his book and then we read. This has now been extended to four. Initially it was met with refusal but as parents we have strong willpower and resisted the urge to give in. This has been a winning formula. Now, if he is enjoying the book he carries on reading (out loud), and we don’t stop him.

Admittedly part of his thought process for this extended reading is so we have to stay in the room with him longer. We see it as a win-win situation. One of the other benefits has been from us doing turnabout he has to get the other parent up to speed with the story. His comprehension has improved as a result.

Our son’s reading has improved hugely since using this partnership approach. He can sound out tricky words; he asks for the meaning of them, and he now reads with expression.

As the book themes change it has allowed us to navigate tricky social topics and friendship issues through the medium of books. It gives a safe space for your child to talk through their worries especially if they are like our son who finds it difficult to talk about his feelings. This has been an interesting journey for us.

We have found the benefits from still reading to our 11-year-old son far outweigh any negatives of doing it. We will carry on reading to him even as a teenager if that’s what he wants and needs. While I doubt, I will ever convert him from being a reluctant reader to a lover of reading (like me, his mum), he is making great progress to enjoying the reading process in the very least.

So please keep reading to your kids. You might find yourself enjoying the bonding and the books all over again.

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Trudi Bishop

Trudi Bishop

126 Followers

Kiwi by birth but not always by nature. Spent most of my adult life in the UK. I’ve landed back in NZ, a stranger in a familiar land. Trying to figure this out.