Teach your children well: Get 'em reading

Norbert Rug

There are many reasons to read to your children. It shows them that they are important to you and can open their eyes to the wonders of the world without them having to leave the comfort of your home. When you read to your child, your child learns how those letters on the pages stand for specific sounds and form words.

Reading has always been one of my favorite things, so I am not surprised that I enjoyed reading with my children. When I was in high school, I didn’t work very hard. I was a solid C student. In history class they made a mistake seating me next to a bookshelf filled with old Readers Digests. I spent all my class time reading them cover to cover.

My wife, Donna, is also a reader. Every week she used to trudge to the library with a tote bag full of books that she had read; she would then spend an hour or more refilling the bag and walk home. I wanted to make her love of reading easier on her, so I bought a Kindle for her. I was able to find a few sources for free books online. I have managed to get her hundreds of books, enough to fill her needs. When her first Kindle wore out, I had get another one for her. Some people have their cell phone by their side at all times; Donna is like this with her Kindle.

When my son was very young, I read to him regularly. Before he even went to kindergarten he read the newspaper to me while I had my morning coffee. We discussed words he didn’t know so he would understand what he was reading. I also helped him with enunciation. By the time he was 5 years old, he was an excellent reader. I attribute this to the reading we did together.

Reading to your children is worth your time. Snuggling with them and a book is valuable quality time. Every parent is their child’s first teacher. There are things you end up teaching your children without knowing, such as how to hold a book, which direction to turn the pages and how the letters on the pages combine to form words.

If children want to jump ahead or simply hear the plot line when you are reading with them, I'm fine with that. They are learning, even if you’re not trying to teach them something. Let your kids take the lead and guide you through the tempo of the story sometimes. There is also room for kids to multitask. Let them color, play with Legos or action figures, while you read to them. You may be pleasantly surprised by how much they are listening to you.

Donna and I have always read to the children in our care. When our son was in elementary school, I was working second shift and didn’t see any of our children much. I always encouraged them to read, though. I used to let my son pick a book and I dictated it into a cassette recorder as a bedtime story. I would even tell him when it was time to turn the page. This never worked, though. He and one of his buddies would rush home from school, throw their jackets and back packs on the floor and run upstairs to his bedroom to listen to / read the day’s story. He is now an avid reader and has instilled this in his 8-year-old twin sons.

Grandpa and Grandma have a great problem with the twins reading when they have to do something. They tend to have their noses buried in books and sometimes I don’t think they hear us call them the first three times. Most parents would kill for such a problem. We have to save the Sunday funnies for them every week end and they read them on Mondays when they see us. Each week during the summer, Donna takes them to the library and checks out a bag of books. The boys pore over the books throughout the week, and I have loved all the different places I found them reading: draped over the recliner, under the dining room table, lying on a bed in a spare bedroom.

The twins like reading Manga. From what I understand, when reading Manga (a form of Japanese comic), the pages are turned in the opposite direction that you would find them when reading a novel. The front of Manga is the back cover. Dialogue, sound effects and narration are likewise read backwards. You read the narration from the top right corner, moving down the left side. Panels in Manga may seem to flow awkwardly. It is often left to the reader to decipher the order, as there is really no set way that the panels flow. Now the 8-year-olds are teaching me how to read.

Having the ability to read helps students in school. My children all went on to higher education and have good jobs; now my older grandchildren are attending college. I know Donna and I helped foster in them a love of reading. I hope they pass it on to their children one day. And I hope you read to your child, too. Everyone benefits when you do.

Norb Rug resides in Lockport. Contact him at nrug@juno.com .