When I was a brand new mom, I tackled reading together as an educational project aimed at getting my cherubs a higher score on the SAT or ACT one day.
Lurking in the back of my sleep-deprived mind were research statistics and experts' exhortations: optimal brain development, increased vocabulary, improved literacy, blah, blah, blah.
But it didn’t take long for that idealistic mindset to hit an obstacle. A big one.
Yes, it was wise to lay the groundwork for my child’s future but the trouble was things were very demanding now in the very-real present.
There were diapers to change, meals to prepare, bottles to wash, laundry to fold, and babies to rock. (Heaven forbid I needed a potty break!) None of it could be ignored, at least not for long.
My initial good intentions about my child’s future — particularly all the reading we were going to do — were quickly relegated to the back burner.
But I slowly began to realize maybe I’d been thinking about it all wrong.
The more tired I got, the more we found ourselves reading. Frankly, because of all that ever-present work, I often needed to press pause and just sit for a few minutes.
That’s when I began to notice that story time didn’t have to be a well-intended chore. Even better, as it turns out, not all the benefits of reading lie in the future.
My children and I were connecting. We were building a vibrant family culture around stories. We were intentionally sharing a few minutes of our day laughing, learning, and exploring the world through books.
My oldest is 14 now. Not too long ago I asked him if he remembers reading picture books together. He did. Not really expecting much of an answer, I followed up by asking what he liked best about it. He froze me to the spot when he shrugged and simply said, “You sat by me.”
And the wonderful irony of it all?
I’m beginning to see some of those future benefits come to bear. Benefits I’m convinced we wouldn’t have seen if we had continued to approach reading as an educational project instead of an opportunity to pause and connect.