Stuff that matters: Read to your kids!

fictionIn the midst of other major projects, I almost forgot to post today! I am setting myself up as a freelance narrator and voice over artist to fill the gaps between performance gigs and book signings, and that is taking a lot more work that I had counted on at first. Now, hopefully everybody here already knows that I am an author. (Yes, it is true! You can even pick up my books on amazon!) While I have only considered myself an author for a little over a year, and a storyteller for a handful of years before that, I have always loved to read. I know that I read myself to sleep almost every night of my childhood, devoured mostly plays through my college years (I was a theatre major), and in my adult life have regularly consumed at least one novel every two weeks. Until I became a writer that is, now I don’t get to nearly as much as I would like.

I think my earliest memories of reading are sitting on the floor with my mother, a bowl of M&Ms between us, and going through flash cards. If I got the word right, I got to eat an M&M. The only word I actually remember from those sessions is “Harry”, he was my best friend. His dad was a race car driver. He pushed me down the wooden stairs from our deck, at my sister’s birthday party I think, and split open my forehead.

I also recall listening to a tape player of my Dad reading a bed time story to my sister and me. He had recorded it so that he could still read to us while he was away on business trips. I can’t quite remember the story, but I can remember that we were delighted to play it.

I recall reading “Frog and Toad are Friends” when I was slightly older. I think we had just moved to a rental house outside Asheville, NC and I still remember that I would read the word “saw” backwards. My daughter had the exact same issue when she read the same book in first grade.

After my parents divorced, I turned to books as a sort of escape. I would read most anything I could find. Magazine articles in waiting rooms, choose your own adventure books, fantasy, mystery, military, science, and history. But I do not think I was ever a big science fiction fan, despite my love of Star Wars. I did attempt to read “The Lord of the Rings” in sixth grade, because I found it on the shelves in my Aunt’s basement. I don’t recall if I was successful, but I know that I found the Silmarillion down there was well, and did not make it far in that one, to be certain. I haven’t bothered to pick it up since then.

The point being that books have always been important to me.

When my daughter was born, it was my plan to read to her every night. At first, it did not matter what I read. I just read whatever I was reading, it is not like she understood the words. Later, it was picture books and fairy tales. And when she could understand longer stories, it was children’s fantasy chapter books, like “The Deepwoods”, “The Wizard of Oz”, and “The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause.” I always tried to sprinkle some poetry in there as well, mostly Shel Silverstein. She was not as much of a fan of his as I am.

When my son was born, I did not read as much to the kids anymore. There were other things to do, like sleep. I know for a fact that he did not get as much early exposure to reading as she did, but my wife and I still tried to read bedtime stories to them each night. I wanted to read more often and I wanted to share all of my favorite books with my kids. I even set up a big chair where I could sit at night, with them on my laps, and just read. It did not work. My son has never been good at sitting still.

With all the reading we had done with my daughter, I was very shocked and dismayed that the skill did not come easily to her. When we were informed at the end of kindergarten that she was well below the end of the year reading level, we decided to try home schooling. That year we read a lot of books together, and mostly I would become frustrated when she refused to sound an unfamiliar word out. Or once she did, that she was unable to connect the sounds into a word that made sense. We got her caught up, though there were many tears and rough days in the process, and now she is back in public school and seems to enjoy reading on her own.

My son, strangely enough, is a different story. Even know, he is interrupting me as a write, asking when he can read his new school books for me. Last night he surprised me by sitting down at the table and trying to read a book that is still a bit beyond his level. But he sat there anyways, sounding each and every word out all by himself. I don’t know whether he managed to pick up a lot from the home school lessons he overheard, or if there is something just wired different in his brain and personality, but he loves to read.

And for me, there is nothing better than sitting down on the couch and having him read a book to me, even if he does have to sound most of the words out letter by letter. So, for what it is worth, please read to your kids. Maybe something will rub off on them. And when they are ready, even if it is the dumbest book you have ever heard, make sure you share their excitement and let them read to you too. Because once they learn a love of reading, there will never be anything else they cannot achieve.


Robert Turk is an author and entertainer. You can purchase his books online at


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