When I moved back to Canada from Malta, I arrived late September of 2003, and by the time I was able to settle and sign up for school, it was too late to join a class that semester, and I had to wait until January. Not wanting to fall further behind I asked for some books I can read to prepare for the semester ahead, and I guess that is how it all started for me.
I read all the books that were given to me and then started reading others because I was bored. Before then, I only read books I had to read for school, after that semester at home I developed an interest in reading for the sake of reading.
As an English major, I spent my university career reading more books I had to, but even after graduating I continued reading as a habit – a habit I knew I wanted to pass along to my children eventually, and so, when my wife, Jen, got pregnant, I didn’t wait until Ben was born to start reading to him.
At the time Jen was in her third trimester and most of my reading was done while I was traveling, including daily on my commute to and from work. Then I started reading to Ben before bed each night as well: I wanted him to hear my voice and I wanted him to be born experiencing reading as a habit.
The book I was reading to him at the time was not The Cat in the Hat, nor was it Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site, I started reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. I wanted to maximize the value of the habit I was getting into with my son, and even though the bonding experience was enough, I managed to squeeze some additional value from a professional standpoint, so even after he was born I continued to read him adult books.
Reading time is often thought of as personal time, and with a child you get less personal time, but I managed to find a way to bring the two together and I am getting solid quality time with my son while able to read about things I am actually interested in and are helping me develop as a professional.
Reading aloud is allowing me to practise my intonation and pronunciation, which is very useful for presentations at work and my overall verbal communication skills. It has also improved my vocabulary and understanding of certain concepts.
Reading aloud forces you to think more about what you are reading. It makes you read slower and, as a result, you get a better understanding over what you are reading, which also helps improve your retention as well.
Sometimes Ben and I also take the time to discuss what we read. It’s a pretty one-sided conversation, but my son knows his dad is talking to him and he engages with me to the extent a baby can engage. But doing so gives me the time to think a little deeper about what I just read, and take the time to develop my own thoughts as well.
Ben is one now and I do not just read him adult books. We read children’s books as well, and he has already gone through a bunch of the classics. I still manage to read him an adult book twice a day: once with his morning bottle, and the second time with his evening bottle. His bottle helps retain his attention when he doesn’t have pictures to stare at, and I make sure I look away from the book and at him while I am reading, or else I might as well just be reading alone. I often refer to these moments as pages for the ages, and will cherish them forever.
Ben will continue to grow, and I know soon the day will come when he is going to want to read the books he wants, and that is OK. That is, after all, the goal – for him to develop his own reading habit. By the time he does, I am going to be so good at reading aloud, it’ll be fun for the both of us, and before you know it, he will be reading on his own and I can go back to reading what I want to read.