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The Gift of Words
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At times, it seems like the greatest accomplishment of parenting is just keeping the children alive! The challenges of parenting are many and we make so many mistakes. However, by the time the children arrive at young adulthood, one is tempted to believe that something good must have happened.

If I did anything right in parenting, I think that I passed along an appreciation for and value of reading. When our first child was about eight months old, we started looking at picture books together. Zach was barely two years old when I purchased a 20-volume series of Value Tales that illustrated the lives of famous people. I know we read the story of Louis Pasteur many times. We had a routine of reading three or four books, and singing some songs before he went to bed each night.

Not long after that, I started compiling my own book for him, made up of pictures that I cut from magazines, saved from calendars, or cut out of greeting cards. The pictures were things that I knew he especially enjoyed—food, animals, people, flowers, children, and Bible characters. I pasted the brightly colored pictures on pages of glossy, thick paper and bound the whole book together. We would often sit and look at Zach’s book and talk about each page. After his sister was born, I made one just for her.

Starting young

When Zach was old enough to walk, I took him to the children’s book section of the university library. Later when Lauren was just old enough to toddle, I took both children to story time at the public library in the town where we lived. We took great care in selecting books for both of them and returned almost every week. Lauren especially loved the small, baby-sized books and she would even sleep with them.

As Zach grew up, I searched for a way to connect with him each day, so I offered to read him books each morning after he awoke. At nine years old, he set his own alarm clock and came out to lie on the couch while I read to him for 15 or 20 minutes before school. We kept that ritual until he was about 16 years old when life got very complicated. Sometimes I was not sure if he was really awake as I read, but I certainly enjoyed those quiet times and the many volumes we discovered together.

As a late literary bloomer, Lauren, as a senior in high school, discovered the love of reading thanks to a home study course. Soon after, she started consuming self-help and inspiration books. During her early college days, she helped proofread her uncle’s manuscripts and discussed plots with him. For the past few years, one of her greatest joys has been visiting bookstores. For part of one year, she even worked in a bookstore snack shop. She has also talked about turning some of her life experiences into a book.

I believe that our children benefited from a broad vocabulary that was instilled by listening to stories and reading books. Vocabulary translated into college scholarship money for one of them. The gift of words greatly enriched their abilities to communicate with many people.

Owning, loaning, writing and talking about books are some of the things that we enjoy as a family. Finding the public library was one of the first outings that I conducted after each family move. Certainly reading God’s Word, and the stories of inspired people from all over the world is something that has worked in parenting our children.

By Karen Spruill, M.A. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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