How Reading Aloud Made Me A Better Father

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"Are you going to spend more time talking to the kids?," my exasperated wife asked me gently. 

This exchange took place one afternoon three years ago, when our twins were about eight months old.

"Of course I will. Just when they get a bit older so we can communicate better," I responded defensively.

Well, that was a really lame excuse. 

Of course, she noticed. 

The fact that our babies were not able to "talk", somehow made it more difficult for me to communicate with them.

I'm not talking about hugging, cuddling, tickling and playing around - that came naturally, of course. Baby talk was OK, as well.

Still, there was one thing I was not able to do. 

I found it incredibly hard to talk to my baby girl and baby boy. 

At the same time, my wife did it so effortlessly. 

My babies' naturally limited (non-existent) ability to respond verbally to my words was somehow an excuse for me to limit my own communication. 

I simply found no easy way of talking to my kids, so I usually played around silently.

My big mistake around my twins was that I did not explain what I was doing. I did not narrate my moves. 

As we all know, the fact that babies cannot talk does not mean that they cannot listen - and listening is the foundation of all communication. You cannot learn to speak a language if you do not hear it first. 

Yep, I was a poor dad in this respect in the first year or two. 

Take note, this was not a decision. 

Unfortunately, it somehow felt natural not to talk to someone, who does not know how to talk back.

Many fathers may find themselves in the same position.

So let me be clear, I did it all wrong. 

I don't know the reason. Maybe sometimes dads see how our wives are great masters of communication with our still speechless babies and ... well... we feel we cannot even come close. 

Maybe that's just another lame excuse.

What it certainly means is that if you remain silent - your baby loses out, we also put even more strain on our wives and, finally, a passive dad ultimately retreats instead of engaging the baby.

I was a bad dad.

Enter children's books.

Believe it or not, in the first 18 months after my kids were born - I still had no inkling of the read aloud revolution that would happen in our house one day.

Truly. 

What I needed was structure for much more intensive communication with my baby twins and I did not know that reading children's books aloud would provide this structure for me.

The problem was that I needed quality content. Real quality, as this was a long-term commitment.

If I was going to read to my twins every day, I'd better be using that time to read great books. Fantastic books.

Why settle for less when incredible children's books are available all around us?

The scene was set for a transformation. 

Overnight I became a "Read Aloud Dad". I still remember the night.

It was a night when my wife was so tired out, that she fell asleep after reading aloud to the kids for just 1-2 minutes.

Our son was standing in his cot, looking over the edge and shouting at his mom: "Read! Read! Please Read!" "Read!, Read! Read!"

She was so knackered  out, that she shouted back at our son. She wanted a deserved rest, he wanted a story.

Then I made a mistake. Instead of getting angry at myself, I got angry at her for shouting at the kids.

She didn't need to say it. I was the real culprit in the story. I wasn't involved with the children's reading. 

There was only one smart thing I said that night. "From now on I will read to them every day."

So... Read Aloud Dad was born. 

Children's books almost magically opened up the the channels of communication. They broke down all the walls. 

Today, the situation is the complete opposite. 

Read Aloud Dad loves my kids so much, which means that he loves to talk to them all the time. 

Read Aloud Dad reads as much as he can and tries to find the best children's literature to engage my twins. 

Read Aloud Dad has built a home library with books for all children's ages and this library of great books is continuously expanding. 

Read Aloud Dad decided to celebrate this great relationship with my twins by launching this blog. 

Read Aloud Dad expresses his love for my kids with books for an hour or two every day - together.

Read Aloud Dad - thanks for coming into our family!

You made me a better father and a better man.

The best of all is that Read Aloud Dad also wants to join your family too. 

You don't hear him knocking. but trust me you just have to open the door.

Fellow dads, it's incredibly easy. Let me tell you the secret:

1. Take a picture book. 

2. Call your kid to sit in your lap. Hug your listener.

3. Smile and look your kid in the eye. 

4. Start to read. 

Oh, yes.

Don't forget to celebrate tonight.

Read Aloud Dad has just arrived in your house. 


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8 comments:

  1. Love this post. And I just love this quote, "Children's books almost magically opened up the the channels of communication. They broke down all the walls."

    How completely accurate. I am finding with my oldest, as we have struggled to best handle her emotions, behaviors, and fears, that she may not listen to what I tell her, but she will listen to a character that speaks to her inner voice.

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  2. Reshama DeshmukhMarch 6, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    Congratulations! I love this post :) I can relate to so many of the incidences here! But most of all the one about having to read "great books" to them. That is precisely why we started this blog too. and hoping to move to get some really "great apps" one day. Thanks for sharing and I must say Congratulations once again because you are doing such a super job!

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  3. This is such a great post!! Thank you so much sharing your story- I think many parents can relate! At KiteReaders, we encourage and promote literacy and reading every single day, and reading together is one of the best things you can do!!

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  4. Vivian KirkfieldMarch 6, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    I just found you via Google+ and the Great Books for Kids community...I love your discovery of how picture books can be a powerful tool for parents to use to communicate with young children. Even infants (and babies in the womb :) can and should be read to, sung to, hummed to, recited poetry and nursery rhymes to. How wonderful that you are sharing this with others...I will share it as well.:) If you have the time, please come and visit my parenting/kid lit blog: www.viviankirkfield.wordpress.com

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  5. Hi Jenny H.!

    I love to share that story. It was really difficult to write it.

    Your words are so encouraging and I hope that my kids will follow suit. It can be hard for kids to open up about touchy subjects to parents - but I hope that reading aloud good books will be the magic powder that will help us bridge over those gaps!

    Thank you so much for your comment!


    Read Aloud Dad


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  6. Thanks Kite Reader!

    Wise words indeed and thanks for your compliments!


    Read Aloud Dad


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  7. Hi Reshama!

    Thanks you so much for taking the time to read it! I find myself coming back to the same conclusion. The key is great books, great books and great books!

    Love the modern design of your site and the easy access to all your reviews! Perfect... (or in the spirit of kidlit - Purrrfect!)


    A big hug!


    Read Aloud Dad


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  8. Hi Vivian,

    Thanks for your warm words. Indeed, it took me a long time to realize how communication with kids should start early - even with babies in the womb - just as you say. Thanks for sharing the post!

    Loved your post on What Did Kids Do In Little House On The Prairie? Indeed, kids do need routines, rules and responsibilities! I feel that they are happier when they have a framework in their everyday life.



    A big hug


    Read Aloud Dad


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