Reading aloud is more than getting through the chapters to the end. Reading to your children is a chance for them to experience you—your values, your priorities, your heartfelt connection to life itself.
My daughter Johannah called me from college. “That’s why you cried,” she said.
Johannah had always wondered why I couldn’t get through the end of Charlotte’s Web without leaking tears. It’s that final sentence. It gets me every time.
“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”
Charlotte was both—sob! I’m all choked up again.
When Johannah was a child, this line seemed like a matter-of-fact statement about Charlotte. Johannah wondered what feelings I was having that she wasn’t. As a newly minted college student, Johannah reread the book to find out. Cue adulthood, and she experienced a different reaction to those legendary lines. She saw their poignancy, the subtle way E.B. White affirmed writers for their craft, and the power of loyalty in friendship until death. Values—she now understood—demonstrated in my tears, a decade earlier.
When we read to our kids, we aren’t just conveying words or a narrative. Our living, breathing reactions make impressions too.
- We show an appreciation for courage or hardship,
- we laugh at the plays on words,
- we smile with delight at alliterative phrases,
- we demonstrate surprise or moral outrage.
Our children, listening along, take in the story and adult response—both. Even when they don’t quite “get it yet.” These shared experiences with you form the bedrock of their values.
Next time you feel a little chagrined by your inability to read without tears streaming down your cheeks—let them flow. Let your children see the good, compassionate, sensitive feeling the story evokes from you.
That’s half the lesson.