Why It’s Important to Read in Front of Kids

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Melody Schreiber

Staff Writer

Melody Schreiber is at work on a nonfiction anthology of premature birth. As a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., she has reported from nearly every continent. Her articles, essays, and reviews have been published by The Washington Post, Wired, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard, NPR, The Toast, Catapult, and others. She received her bachelor’s in English and linguistics at Georgetown University and her master’s in writing at the Johns Hopkins University. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @m_scribe.

There are several habits I try to limit when I’m in front of my son. Watching mindless TV, scrolling through social media on my phone, cursing when some *%^#@! cuts me off in traffic.

But there’s one habit I’ve started doing more when he’s around: reading.

Not just reading to him—we do plenty of that, too. But reading for myself. Anytime he starts racing his cars or stacking blocks, I’ll pick up a book and sneak in a little reading time for as long as I can.

I think it’s important not just to have some downtime for myself, but also to show him how passionate I am about reading—and to cultivate that passion in him, as well.

After all, the kids in our lives look up to us and imitate our habits. They might as well be a force for good once in a while.

It shows kids how important reading is

It’s one thing to read a few picture books to my kid before bed. But when he glances up and sees me immersed in a book—is there a better way to show him how exciting books are and how important they can be in our lives?

I was inspired to prioritize my own reading when another book blogger, Jamie, discussed how the arrival of her daughter changed her reading habits—almost entirely for the better.

I realized that a quick dive into a book isn’t just a guilty pleasure. It’s instructive to show him how integral reading is in my life. I can say reading is fundamental until I’m blue in the face, but demonstrating it in my own life has a special power.

I’ve learned how to fit reading into my ever-changing schedule

I used to have long chunks of reading time because I commuted to work two hours every day. When I started working from home, I lost that set-aside time and struggled to find unbroken stretches of time to dive into books.

But now I’ve realized that I don’t have to read for an hour to enjoy a book. I can dip in and out of it, even after the kid is in bed and I need to finish up an assignment, or do some laundry, or (sometimes?) work out—I can always slip a little reading or audiobook time in for a few minutes.

Those 15-minute stretches really start to add up!

It teaches me to read in a new way

Reading in short bursts—and keeping track of the story even if I don’t have time for a deep dive—has been a really valuable skill to learn.

Now I think really carefully about what I just read, and because it’s incorporated into my life more—in between errands and work events and daycare pickup—I tend to think about the books I’m reading as I go about my day.

How to Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh coverFor instance, right now I’m reading Lilly Singh’s How to Be a Bawse, and it is absolutely perfect for sprint-reading like this. The chapters are quick, and they’re also very thought-provoking. If I were to read it all in a sitting or two, I very likely wouldn’t absorb each of her lessons and really think about how to set and achieve my goals.

I am not going to win any awards for finishing books quickly; I’ve been reading Singh’s book for about a month now. But luckily for me, it’s not a competition.

Setting personal boundaries

It’s absolutely vital for me, as a relatively new parent, to continue pursuing my interests and doing things for myself.

But even acting in my own self-interest has important implications for my son. I want to show him that Mama has her own life and her own passions—and that he too can build a reading life all of his own.

And I do it all by having a little reading fun. Win-win!