Once upon a time, in a land far away, there once was a . . . “Alexis, are you paying attention? What was the last thing I said?” My red face as I stumbled to repeat what I thought my mom had just read to us was not an uncommon occurrence. My imagination was always off in the distance, lost in the picture I was creating in my mind. Summer weekdays in my childhood always included a break after lunch where my mother would read aloud to us from various books that we would choose – “Little House on the Prairie” being my favorite. Growing up on a farm, and later marrying a farmer and becoming one herself, my mother understood that though there was always work to be done, setting aside time to read and spend time with her children was of the highest priorities for her. Starting on her lap as a young child and even further back as an infant, so many memories that lead to learning, development and a strong bond with my mother happened while reading.
“I Love to Read” month (February) brings activities and events that promote reading and spending time with books. With 90% of brain development occurring before age 5, these first years are a crucial time for taking the moments to sit with a child and enjoy a book. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, sponsored by United Way of Central Minnesota, is a wonderful resource for families that enables books to make these special moments happen. For the children of Central Minnesota that are enrolled between the ages of birth to age 5, a new, age appropriate book is delivered to them in the mail every month. This is a free program that can act as a reminder to set aside the time to spend with your child and enjoy a book together.
United Way’s Read.Talk.Play. is also a resource for spending time with your child. Creating a bond with a child and spending time on their development does not have to be complicated. It can be as easy as sharing a book with your child and discussing their favorite part or what they think will happen next. In many cases, it is the little things that you do together that make the biggest impact.
A visit to your local library to sign up for a library card is a simple way to promote reading and spend an exciting time with a child finding new titles, characters and stories to read.
Those summer afternoons for me, were priceless. There was so much more that we got from that time than the enjoyment of the stories we heard. As a parent, I think back to those days and remind myself to set aside time to read with my children. My plan for “I Love to Read” month is to make a point to put the hustle and bustle of everyday life on hold and do more to enjoy a book, a moment, an experience with my children and I challenge you to do the same – it doesn’t have to be your own child, it could be a neighbor, grandchild or a child at Boys and Girls Club. I have a feeling you will BOTH get more out of the experience than a great story.
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ― Emilie Buchwald
Written By: Alexis Lutgen, Community Impact Coordinator