By Allison Berry
March 06, 2014

For the past two years I've been working for a family as a regular babysitter for their now 3-year-old son, Mason, and this past weekend I was called in to hang out with him while his parents went to a friend's party. As a surprise I brought him a few new books to read that I figured would get tucked away on a shelf and occasionally looked at before bedtime, but I could not have been more wrong.

From the second I pulled the big, colorful kids' books out of my bag, Mason couldn't take his eyes off of them. Once he got his hands on them, he ran over to the couch and asked that we started reading them, making sure to go through each detail from cover to cover. Normally our time together is spent eating pizza, throwing dance parties, and playing with Legos, so the change of pace caught me off guard. Aside from the 20 minutes or so spent breaking for dinner, we were on the couch the entire night reading the same three stories and looking at their pictures.

I have to say; I was really impressed with Mason (seen above in his early reading days). He genuinely enjoyed spending his time flipping through these pages, pointing out details of the illustrations and asking questions about things that were unfamiliar to him. Sure, I remember loving books as a kid, but my ability to get lost in the pages of a good story has dwindled after my college years of scouring studies and analyzing classic literature. Truth be told, I got kind of jealous as I thought about the (overdue) library book that has been sitting on my shelf untouched for weeks. Whatever happened to kicking back on a Saturday night to read a good book with your babysitter?

I was feeling the sting of my freshly wounded ego when I came across a post today from Rewire Me that reminded me of why kids, unlike some adults, find reading to be so much fun. The article outlines major reasons that explained why reading to your child sets them up for a better future. Aside from the quality time you get to spend bonding with your little one, the article mentions that reading to kids also helps foster imagination, builds language skills, and helps them establish a connection between pictures and words. It also delves into the importance of repetition while reading to your child, explaining that reading the same story and looking at the same pictures multiple times can strengthen fragile neural connections. And just think: all of this before bedtime.

As it turns out, I was doing a lot more for Mason than just humoring him when he insisted on reading the same new books over and over again. What I simply thought was a case of being excited about new books was actually an exercise in strengthening a 3-year-old's brain. Talk about being babysitter of the year.

After reading through the article I started thinking about reading books with my parents growing up, and how I eventually became a book-worm who would camp out on the living room sofa for hours at a time. My parents reading to me instilled an excitement about books, stories, and information that I'd seemingly lost until my friend Mason found it and returned it to me. Thanks for the help, Mase. I'm looking forward to our next story time together, but promise you'll let me pick one of the books this time, ok?

Comments (1)

March 24, 2019
Reading together isn't good only for kids, but all of us. Although the parents of many of my daughter's friends stopped reading to their children when the kids learned to read, my child and I continued to read together (and not only with me doing the reading) for as long as she lived in my apartment and beyond. We still read together at times, even though she lives across an ocean. And she and my son-in-law have continued to read to their kids, long after they could read to themselves. (They do that, too.) It's not only an effective educational tool, including opportunities to read books that have somewhat more advanced plots and vocabulary than a child of a certain age might be able to absorb completely but a warm, intimate activity to share. I still enjoy reading with family members when we are together. And a sweet sign of what our reading together meant to my daughter, when she and my son-in-law gave me my first e-book reader, she loaded it up with the novels of Dickens and short stories and novels of Willkie Collins, which we read together, long ago. So yes, reading with children will help to grow their brains and give them a taste for reading, but (if you are as lucky as I have been) it also will strengthen the matchless bond between you. It's really worth the time and effort for a reward like no other.