by Mike McHugh
Most parents are aware of the true saying, "The family that prays together, stays together." Far fewer parents, however, know that "The family that reads together, grows together." In the days before television and computer games, family reading was one of the most popular and cherished aspects of family life. Today, it is rare to find a family that incorporates the reading of good books into their weekly routine, even though such an activity is so easy and inexpensive to pursue. More parents need to recognize the immense value of family reading, and to learn how to develop this wholesome endeavor into a treasured family tradition.
One of the primary reasons why the practice of family reading is such a powerful means to bless families is that, unlike television or computer games, it is quite simply something that is done by the entire household together. The mere fact that family reading involves each member of a family in a shared activity tends to promote closer relational ties between those living under the same roof. The blessing of family unity, however, is not the only tangible benefit associated with the practice of reading aloud.
The fact that reading out loud brings people in a household together also helps parents to establish an environment in which profitable discussions naturally occur. Whether we are reading a story from the Bible, some quality work of historical fiction, or a biography such readings provide plenty of meaningful issues for family members to talk over. Children are, by the Creator’s design, curious creatures. If encouraged, children will gladly talk about their favorite part of the story, or perhaps whether they think the lead character made wise choices during his life, etc. Young and old alike can, and should, be encouraged to contribute to the discussion while it is guided loosely by the head of household.
Good wholesome stories, packed with plenty of stirring role models and clear moral lessons are like vitamins for each child in your family. More than ever before, children need to know how to develop and apply godly character to their lives. A great work of literature will often challenge readers to see how a person’s character influences the decisions he makes and the way he handles people and things. As children listen to stories, or read them aloud, they are enabled to enter into the lives of others for a season and to experience the positive moral influence of their character. In an age where positive role models are in short supply, it is more important than ever to place great literature in front of a child’s heart, for television and video games seldom deliver the type of message young people need.
Reading aloud also helps each member of the family to increase their vocabulary and pronunciation skills. As the old saying goes, "If you want to write well, then write often. If you want to read well, then read often." In other words, the best way for parents to encourage their children to read, is for them to read to and with their youngsters often.
In a manner similar to old time radio theater programs, reading aloud has a way of stirring the imagination of each listener by calling upon the brain to formulate suitable images for each word picture that flows off the page. Television and motion pictures simply cannot stimulate the imagination of a human being like a well- written book or poem. As an aside, if families struggle with reading they can ease into the routine of family reading by utilizing "books on tape" from their local library. As time passes, such families can simply begin to do the reading for themselves.
Although much more could be said about the value of families reading aloud together, this article has hopefully encouraged parents or grandparents to incorporate this activity into their weekly routine. Contrary to the view of some, the exercise of reading aloud is not a relic of the distant past, but rather, is a timeless vehicle for family entertainment and reformation.
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