What happens when you read a book aloud with a child, your partner or other loved one?
What happens when you open that book and start reading aloud, discussing the things that happened or pointing out parts of the illustrations as you sit together, sharing this experience?
Memories are created.
Whether you're listening to an audio book or you are using your voice to read aloud, everybody is sitting proximate to one another, sharing an experience.
You are creating memories and going on adventures to places you may never in this lifetime take the opportunity to go to and through this story, you get to go there together.
In your imagination and in a very real way, you are creating experiences for yourself that add to the life experiences you're already sharing.
You get to float down that Mississippi River with Huckleberry Finn and Jim. You can rise up in The Twenty-One Balloons and explore that island of Krakatoa together.
You get to venture together into the dark, goblin-infested caverns of George McDonald's, The Princess and the Goblin.
Hand-in-hand you are able to walk into the wardrobe and step out on the other side, into Narnia.
You can be amused in the company of Winnie the Pooh and his friends in AA Milne's stories.
You can say “pooh-pooh” to the tigers in the zoo along with Madeline as you experience life through the eyes of a little Parisian girl.
Perhaps, you’ll journey over to Paddington Station and meet a very special marmalade-loving bear and the welcoming family that takes him home.
In these shared moments, you and your child are creating new friends—new friends in the form of characters from the stories AND the actual, physical books.
When one of these books becomes special to your family, you might decide to buy it.
From the bookshelf, the energy of its mere presence fills your home, reminding you of the memories, the opportunities and experiences you had those precious moments.
The book calling to you, reminding you of future opportunities to once again open and share it …this time perhaps with a friend.
Maybe you invite it to live in your home as a physical reminder, a symbol of a sweet memory and exciting adventure shared by you and your loved ones.
These books we read together, around the family table, at bed or naptime, etc. can also help mark seasons of our lives.
Our lives are so busy.
Our lives are so full.
When we take a vacation, change up our schedule a bit, go for that long weekend somewhere—maybe even close to home, these actions can help create memories.
These are the mile markers, the guide posts that help us remember where we were at certain times in our lives.
“…that's how we met.”
“Remember?” “Oh yeah, that's before we went to Canada…”
Books can serve the same purpose.
In my life, I can remember the development of my children, what they loved, were obsessed with and so forth based on the books that we read over and over and over again.
Many of these beloved books, we ended up buying because they became friends.
Sometimes stories or books can help us remember our children’s stages and what they loved.
You can remember their little faces as they were cuddled up in your lap reading.
Sometimes it's the thing that helps you remember what you did that year of your life.
Have you ever taken a vacation and it was the only thing that was different for you in your schedule that year? The only thing that added variety to the dailiness of it all and with it some perspective or a gauge?
Books shared can offer the same benefit.
Maybe that's the only thing you did together.
I remember when COVID hit.
There happened to be a lot of tornadoes around the same time things shut down in the U.S.
There was one particular night when the sirens blared and we all had to get up at one in the morning. We were hanging out in our basement for several hours with our pet menagerie gathers close by and there were some books on the shelves down there that we had not yet read.
It was Andrew Petersen's wonderful 4 book series, The Wingfeather Saga.
I decided to start reading the first one because I had a very captive audience! I had a captive audience and we were all snuggled down there together.
This magical moment opened into an opportunity that year to read the entire series.
These are not small books. This was not a short series. But that started a tradition and we read quite a few chapters almost every day together. We could hardly put the book down and hardly wait to pick it back up the next day.
Although COVID was a reality then, this special time reading this series together was also part of our reality.
So that's a beautiful thing to remember about 2020, when the whole world shut down. We got to snuggle up and take the moments we could to share that experience and go on those adventures together with Janner, Tink, Leeli and the rest of the Wingfeather family.
Let’s look at this from yet another angle:
What happens when you use your voice?
If you were blessed to have your mother, father, grandma, grandpa, nanny, a loved one read to you, then you likely remember the soothing effects of his or her voice, the calming effects of bedtime stories.
It's not as much about the storyline as it is about the time spent together.
It's about the familiar, soothing qualities of the voice of the one that's caring for you, whom you love.
You felt held. You feel heard. You feel loved.
This individual that is so busy, is taking their time, taking time out of their day to stop and read this story to you.
This instills in our children the truth that they must be really special.
This incredibly busy adult is taking time out of their day to read to them. They learn they are worthy of that time and get to experience what that feels like.
Even those of us who were read to sometimes have a hard time feeling worthy of gifting ourselves time to do things “just because.”
This is the case for many of us, even if we did have loving people nurturing us throughout childhood.
In reading aloud with our children, they learn that stories must be really important and powerful. They experience the healing and bonding effects of them.
Physically, there's a powerful bond happening when you all are in close proximity.
Endorphins are released. You are having a shared experience.
In reading books together, it can almost be like having another life or many other lives where you visit these places and do things that you might never have had time or opportunity to do in the past.
Some of the places in these stories might be kind of hard to get to. You might not even know where they are in this reality—in this realm we're living in and so that's even more exciting that this portal of adventure is open to you and those listening to these stories.
In Part 2, we’ll continue on with this journey, exploring The Magic of Books and a Shared Story.
Until then, how will you deepen the bond with your child by giving them the gift of taking them along with you into the magical world of a storybook?