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Clare Lazzuri

Reading with kids is time well spent

Voices Jan. 5, 2019

"Real-life stories of suffering and overcoming major obstacles can be eye-opening for kids who generally live comfortable, modern lives," writes Clare Lazzuri.

I have recently rediscovered the joy of reading novels to my older children. By older, I mean the ones who can already read on their own. My 8-year-old had been asking me to do this for a while and I finally realized that there was no good reason to say no. Not to mention that the depths of winter is such a good time for this cuddly and meaningful activity.

Several nights lately I have read to our four youngest snuggled in one double bed, including the toddler, who inevitably got in and out and looked at her own books but still wanted to be part of the group. We just finished To Stand on My Own: The Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Roberston, which is part of the Dear Canada series of books that highlight some traumatic event in Canadian history, usually through the eyes of a young girl.

These books are gems for all ages. We all loved the historical aspect and I especially like that each of the books’ main characters is given the opportunity to make a choice to grow in such virtues as courage, perseverance, kindness, empathy, and hope.

These real-life stories of suffering and overcoming major obstacles can be eye-opening for kids who generally live comfortable, modern lives. On the flip-side, if you have kids in your life who have been through some difficult circumstances, these stories can offer encouragement and inspiration. I also realized about halfway through the book that the main character was only about 10 years older than my mother, who lives with us. Of course, the dinner conversation the next night was all about Nanny’s own recalling of the polio epidemic and how it affected people she knew. Talk about the story coming to life!

When we take the time to journey into a book with our children, so many doors can open for us that can deepen the parent-child relationship. Something I read in the book reminded me of a story from my own childhood, so I stopped reading and put down the book and told the story. It was a bit of an embarrassing tale and the giggles and wide-eyed looks from my two youngest boys were priceless. We shared an invaluable moment, now a precious memory between my children and me.

I find that along with spending time with the kids (and there is nothing a child craves more than time with mom and dad), reading aloud forces us all to slow down. It’s a peaceful, calm time, free from extra noise (other than the toddler). I think that’s why my 8-year-old has been so eager for mom to read lately. Life in a house of ongoing renovations, busy school days, basketball practice, and daily chores was crying out for some meaningful and quieter time with mom. It was actually something I didn’t realize I needed too.

A special saint whose feast day falls on the last day of this month – St. John Bosco – would wholeheartedly approve of regular reading time between parents and their children. This mid-19th-century saint was renowned for his work with children. He made it his life’s work to reach as many children as possible through entertainment, education, and above all being a model of kindness, patience and generosity. He saved countless children from lives of vice and destitution by offering them a listening ear and a purpose in life through the message of Jesus Christ. St. John Bosco absolutely knew the inestimable value of just being present to a child and gently guiding them on a journey of virtue.

Over the years, my husband and I have read several books to the kids – Bible and saint stories, the Little House on the Prairie series, the Magic Treehouse series, the Boxcar Children series, the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys books, and the list goes on.

Next in the lineup is a recommendation from a friend: Father and I Were Ranchers, the first in the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody, recounting the true story adventures of the Moody family as they leave New Hampshire to become ranchers in Colorado.

My 11-year-old says the book she got for Christmas, The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, would be a good choice for reading out loud. Our family has a particular love for historical stories but there’s a niche out there for every family.

The possibilities are endless for good book choices. In the spirit of St. John Bosco, remember to choose books and characters that offer a good example for children, inspiring them to virtuous living. Also important is to choose age-appropriate books, but don’t underestimate what your kids can handle in terms of serious themes that make them think about what life (and sometimes death) is all about and how their choices impact the people around them.

A new year, a new month, early nightfall, and stormy weather all set the stage for the perfect time to pick a book, gather your kids, and go on an adventure together. And just maybe you and your children will grow closer together and closer to Christ.

Lazzuri lives in Nova Scotia with her husband and six children.