The Voices

I read a total of six books to my kids today, in various combinations. They’re voracious consumers of the written word, all of them. They can all, to varying degrees of proficiency, read on their own – but they still pile onto my lap or around my feet to be read to, and I’m grateful for it.

I love reading out loud. I’m super good at it, too – I do the voices and everything! I know when to dive into the story and let it wash over them, and when to pause and ask them to talk about what we’re reading and share their thoughts and feelings. (Of course, my youngest kid’s thoughts and feelings are mostly him excitedly pointing to words he recognizes and shouting them, but the older two are surprisingly nuanced for their ages.)

My thoughts are often consumed by worry about what to teach my children. How to teach it. Whether I’m teaching it well enough. What might happen if I don’t.

And then, we have days where I’m just shocked at how much they already know. How many little details they already own, and what beautiful big pictures they already know how to paint. My three-year-old extrapolates and predicts behaviors, filling in characters’ reactions in advance even in stories she doesn’t know. My eight-year-old is inventing riddles and puzzles and jokes, already more clever with wordplay than I was at her age (and quite a bit older). Even my youngest can pick up books that he clearly can’t read, but can turn to each page and recite it from memory based on only one or two times it’s been read to him. And he does so with great enthusiasm.

The best thing you can do for your kids isn’t to teach them. It’s to make it easy, and enjoyable, for them to learn. Give them tools. Let them have books and paper and yes, screens. Show them how to use those things to find knowledge and master its building blocks.

And when they want you to read to them, say yes. And do the voices.

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