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This is a blog post I originally wrote for Booktrust about why reading together doesn't have to stop after picturebooks. Learn more about Booktrust.
Bath. Book. Bed. For my family (and I’m sure I’m not alone here) that’s been our night time routine ever since my son was born. When he was tiny, I’d read him stories. As he got bigger, we read picture books together. But I suppose I’d always assumed once he went to school, that’d tail off and he’d be happy to read alone.
Well, he had his tenth birthday last week and when I’ve finished writing this, I’ll be heading upstairs to listen to him read ‘Midnight for Charlie Bone’ until he falls asleep. Turned out once he started school, we’d both got so used to shared reading time that neither of us wanted to stop. And even though he’s perfectly capable of following a story by himself, sharing a book means we get to spend some special time together without any distractions. No work, no TV, no chores, just the two of us. Plus he’s such an active kid, always bouncing on the trampoline or playing cricket or football, and having the opportunity to calm down and unwind helps him to relax into sleep. Bonus.
We mix it up a bit: sometimes he picks a book and sometimes I choose one, usually one that’s a bit more challenging that we can talk about together. And it’s the perfect excuse to re-read stories I loved as a child, like ‘Marianne Dreams’ and ‘Charlotte’s Web’, ones he would usually ignore in the library because he thinks they look girly. We read non-fiction too. If he’s doing a particular topic at school like the Romans, we’ll get information books from the library. And when we go on holiday, we get a book about the country we’re visiting (the Lonely Planet Not-for-parents series is brilliant.)
Studies have proven over and over again that strong readers improve their academic performance not only in English but across the board. Of course, I can’t know whether reading with my son has helped him at school but it's certainly encouraged him to read independently and I’m going to try my best to keep that going through his teenage years.
Of course it’s not always easy to fit in. There are days when my inbox is overflowing; the house is a disaster zone and my brain is so fried all I want to do is collapse on the sofa and watch trashy TV. Then there are the days when he’s driven me up the wall. But when I think about how quickly the last ten years of gone (how can he be ten already?!) I realise these are precious days. And I’ve also found having a cuddle and a read is the perfect way to make up after a tricky few hours. Mainly though, I want to create happy memories for him to treasure when he’s an adult. And if that means giving up on trashy TV, well, I’m prepared to make that sacrifice.