Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Tag: read

Ten Best Parenting Tips Series: #1 Read Aloud

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 5.40.34 PMMy husband and I have six children.  Six!!!  Who can believe it?  This fact puts Dave (my husband) and I into the  “experienced parents” category–especially since the youngest is now 23 years old.   Parenting is not easy.   Should I say that again??  Parenting is not easy.   It’s not for wimps or the faint of heart.   It takes commitment and effort and patience and effort and humor and effort and…….you get the idea.      

The other night, Dave and I decided to each compile a list of Ten Best Parenting Tips and then compare them.   Turns out we had very similar lists, so we combined them and narrowed them down to our favorite ten.   As some of you other parents might be looking for advice, we decided to share our list.  Each week on Stance we will discuss one of the ten tips.  So sit back, relax, and try to remember how excited you were to be a parent in the first place.

Read Aloud: Connecting with your Children

Read aloud to your children: From the time our children were born, we read aloud to them. When they were babies they just enjoyed being cuddled and hearing the rhythm of our voices.  As they got older, they loved the sounds of words, especially rhyming and alliteration.  To this day I can pretty much quote the entire story of The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss). These rhyming books were not only fun, they were vital in helping our children learn how sounds go together, which in turn helped them learn to read.  Beyond that, we found that simple books teach great principles.  We have a son named Sam, so of course we read him Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss).  Because of that book, we were able to encourage him to try new things. It’s fun to quote to our kids “You do not like it, so you say.  Try it! Try it! And you may!”  This phrase helped our kids with trying new foods, new clothes, and even making new friends.  When we read Horton Hatches the Egg (Dr. Seuss) we were able to mosey into principles of responsibility and promise keeping.

When the kids reached elementary school age, they still loved being cuddled, IMG_0788  held, and sitting close, plus now they really enjoyed and understood the story line.  Some of the first books we chose were Thornton Burgess’s books about the creatures of the forests and the meadows.  In this series of books, the characters; Danny Meadow Mouse, Lightfoot the Deer, etc. are intertwined, with each book focusing on a different animal.  (My oldest son, Kevin, loved them so much that for one of his birthdays, in his 20s, he asked for the complete set!)  These books also taught important life lessons, like what it means to be a friend, the importance of preparation, and the wonderfulness of diversity.  Charlotte’s Web (White) helped our kids learn to not judge others by their looks.  Where the Red Fern Grows (Rawls) allowed us to talk about sorrow and death.  Sometimes a book was so sad I had to hand it to my child to read because I couldn’t stop crying.  We continued to read aloud even as the kids got older.   Books that were exciting pulled them in.  Hatchet (Paulsen), The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi), and of course Harry Potter (Rowling) let us explore new geography, pirates, and wizardry as though we were having the experiences ourselves.  

You might think that the only time to read is at bedtime.  While we did read at bedtime almost daily, we found many other times to read.  Taking a break from playing—or working—to relax and read was something I cherished as a young mother.   Everyone needs a change of pace and I loved taking 15-20 minutes out of the day to read.  Whenever we went on vacation we packed some books along.  The kids liked to read their own book, but we also would choose two or three books to read aloud together.

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 5.40.40 PM During the summer we joined the public library reading  programs.  Having prizes to earn motivated the kids to try  new genres and broadened their world.  We liked  checking out books so much that I finally had to make a  rule that each child could only check out as many books as  they could physically carry.  (Our record for checked out  in one week was 54 books!!!)   We sometimes read  outdoors, sitting under a tree or on the patio.   We would  also read by the light of the Christmas tree, choosing one  Christmas story each night before bed.

So why is reading to your children so important?  Why did it make the parenting list for both my husband and me?  There are three main reasons:

  1.  Because reading aloud to a child can be a totally positive activity.  You aren’t asking the child to  perform or behave in any specific way.  You are simply enjoying being entertained together, and can laugh or cry or react in any way you want and it’s ok.   It’s a time to relax and be yourself and let the child be a child.  
  2.  It’s a way to enlarge a child’s world.  How else can they discover what it feels like to experience war—Shades of Gray (Carolyn Reeder), try to coax a goose to fly—Chester, I Love You (Blaine M. Yorganson), or live alone on an island—Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell).
  3.  It’s a way to teach values without preaching.  (Tom Sawyer:  “you can’t pray a lie.”)

Now that our kids are grown, do they still read?   Yes, they do!  I laughed when I found out that my son Stan has a public library card from every city he’s ever lived in.   My kids like to recommend books to me and we enjoy discussing what we’ve read.  So don’t hesitate—sit down and start reading.   You don’t like it, so you say…try it, try it, and you may!

Written by Phyllis Rosen

Why Reading Matters

by Brittany Bruner

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Photo Credit: dhammza via Compfight cc

Reading has always been an important activity in my home. My family and I read together every Sunday, and before I could read, my parents read me a bedtime story every night. My grandparents gave each grandchild a new book every Christmas, and every summer, my mother dropped me off at the library (because I spent way too long looking for books), and I would come home with a stash of reading material. For my family and me, reading is a way of life.

As I grew older, I was shocked by how many people do not value reading. I have encountered several individuals who have never read a book and some who do not know where the local library is. Additionally, I have heard several people say that reading is a waste of time and they would choose anything over reading a book.

This is startling to me for a number of reasons. Rather than discussing all of these reasons, I would like to focus on two reasons I believe reading is important: (1) reading teaches you to think critically, and (2) reading increases feelings of humanity.

Reading Teaches Critical Thinking

In an increasingly technological world, many people actively pursue and encourage others to pursue mathematical education. This idea is starting at even earlier ages with the promotion of the STEM education program that focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, which is being implemented in elementary schools. STEM is a great program because it enhances technological fields. Children are taught to think critically about math and science and to solve equations and problems. Many value this type of critical thinking over literary critical thinking because it provides answers and solutions. But critical thinking in reading can be just as helpful as critical thinking in math and science.

Critical thinking in reading is different from critical thinking in math and science because it focuses more on the human aspect of knowledge. When you critically read, you identify what the author is saying and analyze its significance for society. We then, through this literary analysis, construct narratives about society. It is important to construct these narratives with compassion for other humans. In science, we also construct narratives about human nature. If compassionate feelings of humanity are removed from this, it can produce terrible results. For example, in an English class taught by Brigham Young University professor Kristin Matthews, Professor Matthews discussed the use of scientific data as a form of narrative. We perceive data as a constructed narrative. For example, scientific discoveries in the past have been used to construct narratives that people with darker skin are inferior or that people’s intelligences are affected by how thick their skulls are. The raw scientific and technological data used to support these claims created a narrative and a set of beliefs. Thus, the data is interpreted the same way information is interpreted while reading. The fundamental difference in the two is that reading emphasizes human virtues and aids in understanding other individuals while scientific narratives make claims based solely on facts. When data is interpreted, biases can get in the way of the construction of narrative and allow terrible ideas like the two mentioned before to become “scientifically proven” prejudices. Reading literature aims to eliminate these biases by presenting lots of different points of view.

Reading Increases Positive Feelings toward Humanity

Photo Credit: Ozyman via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Ozyman via Compfight cc

Another main concern I have about our increasingly technological world is that everything is reduced to numbers, including people. For example, when preparing for job interviews, students are told to quantify their experiences. How much did you increase sales? How many people did you bring to the company? By what percentage did you increase productivity? These are common questions that candidates are told to consider as they write cover letters and prepare for job interviews. Their success is determined by how well they can quantify themselves, But, it is quite difficult to quantify experiences that increased humanity or developed positive feelings toward other individuals.

On a broader scope, in a capitalist society we are concerned with the increase of sales and how much money we are making. Some may brush off this concern, but history shows that a world influenced solely by numbers and without books is a terrible world. Reducing people to numbers removes their humanity. This was shown by the numbering system in concentration and death camps during the Holocaust. This was the lowest form of reducing people to numbers, and it brought about horrific results.

When I visited the Imperial War Museum in London, in the Holocaust exhibit I read a quote by Henrich Heine that states, “Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people.” While there was literal book burning during the Nazi reign, this quote implies a lot more about the human race. In my postmodernism English class, we discuss the concept of the Other, or one who is outside your group (which can essentially mean everyone), and we discuss the importance of understanding the Other. Books emphasize learning about Others because they portray many different life experiences. When we read, we can draw a mirage of experiences from many different characters, expanding our understanding of the world and of humanity. Because every person’s experience is vastly different, this understanding can be expanded in both fiction and nonfiction accounts. Therefore, if books represent experiences of the Others, when the books are burned, the concept of the Other is burned, and only one experience and one mindset is adopted (like the mindset of the Nazis). When this happens, disaster strikes.

While we are striving to better the world and to increase the productivity of people through the development of technology, it is important for people to value the experiences of those around them and to understand people on a deeply human level. A focus on numbers and results removes this human aspect. When poet Mark Strand visited Brigham Young University, he was asked about the influence he had as a poet. He said that if our leaders took time to read poetry for an hour a day, our world would be significantly improved.  Reading allows people to think critically, and it also allows people to understand each other better and perhaps treat others with greater human compassion.