Every night I lie down on our bed flanked by #1 on my right and #2 on my left. After we have chatted for a few minutes, I read first to #2 and then to #1. The tradition started more before #1 could speak. I would stand next to the crib and read aloud. Then, when #1 moved into a bed, we would lie down next to each other and I would read aloud. From those early illustrated books we slowly graduated into longer and more complicated books. When #2 arrived, it seemed only natural that I would begin reading to both of them. At first, it was a bit of a challenge: stand next to the crib and read to #2 early while #1 got ready for bed then lie down next to #1 to read. About five years ago the three of us started lying down together with me in the middle.
#2 often asks that we reread a book we have already read—we’re on our fourth reread of a book about mermaids. With #1 we are slowly working our way through a series about Roman Britain. Some nights we are tired and scarcely make it a few pages into #1’s book before we are all asleep. Some nights, like last night, #1 and I read for quite some time while #2 sleeps quietly beside me.
As I have said to both of them, reading to them is the best part of my day. There are no deadlines, no obligations, no TV, no phone, no distractions, nothing but the three of us. Yesterday I was reminded of how important these times are to them. While visiting a friend, #2 said: “It makes me sad when you’re not home ’cause nobody reads to us.”
There are mountains of evidence that reading to your children improves their ability to speak, to read, it improves their vocabulary and comprehension, it improves their performance in school and their ability to articulate their thoughts in writing and orally. That’s all well and good, but I don’t read to them for some educational benefit. I read to them because it gives us time together. Time that is not fragmented by all the other demands and not splintered into brief moments between a ringing phone or a TV show. Time that we will never have again. Time that they don’t have to share with anything else.
I read to them so that when I am gone they will still hear their father’s voice and know that he loves them.