Reading together is good for their brains—and my soul

I've always been a reader. As a child, I have fond memories of plowing through the Trixie Belden detective series, Little House on the Prairie, Jane Austen books and Louisa May Alcott books. For me, there was no such thing as too much reading. If I was curious about the world, I turned to a book. Mostly my love of reading comes from a love of stories—whether fictional or not.

When I was in college, my mom died from cancer. The pain was so deep and so raw, I turned to reading. I wanted to read someone else's pain. I wanted to know I wasn't alone. So, it was Charles Martin's fictional book, When Crickets Cry, that gave me strength to move forward in my grief. Somehow, reading a character's broken heart story helped heal my own broken heart.

When I become a mom, I brought home a 7 lb., 6 oz. baby boy. It was emotional and overwhelming, I cried from feeling insecure and unprepared. But once I finished crying, I shared with him the only thing I knew: reading. I sat in the middle of our bed, holding my 72-hour-old baby in my arms and I read aloud Nancy Tillman's On The Night You Were Born. His baby cries grew quiet as I read, but my postpartum tears poured down my cheek. As a new mom, that was an emotional read, but it gave me courage. When I finished reading the book aloud, I knew I could do this new gig called motherhood.

Soon, we added two more children to our family. Three kids under three is nothing short of insanity, but I quickly found that a good book could reset the day. When the bickering and toddler tantrums would reach concert noise levels, we would grab a book. The noise would calm down, and before we knew it, we would read multiple books. Sandra Boynton's silly animal characters, BabyLit board books of classics, and Little Blue Truck's easy going demeanor all helped created our calm.

As our kids have exited the baby season and are moving more into the preschool and kindergarten ages, we are reading more than ever before. In the baby years, it was a source of calm, now it is our family connection.

I knew I wanted to raise readers, but I never anticipated that reading would be an activity we would cherish as a family. Yet, we do. We cherish our time reading together. We do it for fun; we read silly books. We embrace a series wholeheartedly and when we finish that series, we feel very sad. (Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo should never end.)

When we want to know something, we read a book. When the world hurts, and my kids ask hard questions, we go find a book that teaches us kindness and empathy.

My husband calls our kids "reading monsters." They love books. They love to be read to, and we read constantly. It is not always idyllic. Often times, when we read, our kids are jumping off the couch, or running around, but we always finish the book. However, just when I think they aren't listening, they always come back and reference the book when I least expect it. The more my kids gravitate towards books, the more animated I get when we read aloud. It's not unusual for my husband to hear me yelling when I'm reading at bedtime. (If a book puts the dialogue in all caps, I'm going to read it in all caps, too.)

There are enough experts who say we should read to our kids. We see the stats floating around social media. Sharing the gift of reading is never something I want to do as a way to make another mom feel guilty. I love sharing because it is such a sweet part of our family's atmosphere. It's a cherished moment of our day that happens frequently throughout the course of the day. It's something I want all parents to enjoy, because reading with our kids is creating wonderful memories for us.

Reading has made us laugh, it has made us cry, it has reconciled rough days and it brought joy to our hearts.

Bethany Armstrong is a wife and mom of three. As a reading enthusiast, she blogs about the books being read in her home. Bethany has a communication degree from Toccoa Falls College. She can be found at and on just about any social media as @bookreviewmama.

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