“Reading Set Me Free”

With all of the distractions of our modern life, we bring in guest contributor Eric Bennion aka “The DiaryDad”, who reminds us the importance of reading on the couch as a family…

The couch acts a reading classroom...

The couch acts a reading classroom…

Spending time on the couch with my family can mean any one of many activities is going on. We have movie time there, sometimes we play a few video games from it, we have even been known to throw impromptu dance parties around it. Our couch is definitely a place where we come together for good family fun. One of my favorite “couch activities” is reading. I like to read my books there, my wife and I enjoy curling up on weekends for a good Sunday afternoon read; the best however is when I read to my boys. In the last year we have completed the first Percy Jackson Series, a book on Greek mythology, and King Arthur’s tales. Just recently we began The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and almost every night they ask if I am reading a chapter (more often than not they convince me to read them two).

I think reading to and with your children is such an important activity. There is great freedom in developing the skill and ability to read. If it fosters enough enthusiasm in them to read – any maybe write – their newfound love could lead them to pursue literary careers when they get older, like becoming a line editor, copy editor, or maybe even a writer! When I was a little tyke I remember wanting to read. I wanted to read so bad I felt like it was killing me. My workbooks were hard, my flashcards were hard, my phonics lessons were hard; but then again I was only 5 years old. I saw people reading and wondered what it would be like when I didn’t have to ask someone to read a story to me. I wanted to know if there was something I was missing. I wanted to stop feeling like I was being held back by this inability to make funny black marks on a white page make sense.

They're getting pretty good!

They’re getting pretty good!

One day after weeks or months of struggling through phonics exercises and letter recognition with my mom and grandpa, I decided to have it out with a book. I walked up to the bookshelf grabbed a copy of “Fun with Dick and Jane” and went to the couch in our basement in a winner-take-all showdown. Either I would conquer that book or my brain would explode… and yes I read the hell out of that book. Then I proceeded to read the hell out of it to anyone that would listen to me. I read it to my mom, my grandparents, my dad , my brothers, and if I could have caught the mailman I would have read it to him too.

The great thing about that moment is that it set me free. Sure it was just a “Dick and Jane” book and sure it really lacked substance, but I couldn’t be held back anymore. All the knowledge that was out here in the world was available to me because I was a reader. I began reading books with gusto, and to this day there is great comfort for me in the pages of a good book.

Reading to the boys on the couch...

Reading to the boys on the couch…

I remember watching this same phenomenon in my children, specifically my youngest. I remember watching the frustration as he worked to make meaning from those funny marks on the pages. When it finally happened I was more than happy to listen to him read the same story to me as many times as he wanted, because I knew. I had been there and it was a huge defining moment. Now both my boys are avid readers. So much so that it is a punishment to make them go to bed without the opportunity to read. One of the best “go-to” adventures for us is a “quick” walk to the library to load up on new books to read. Those trips never take us less than an hour even though the library is 5 minutes from our home and we never come home without a bag (or two) loaded with new books to read.

Whether at the library, the beach, at a park, in their bed- or on our couch, I hope that my kids never lose their love of reading. It has been fun to see the things that inspire them. What’s more, it is comforting to know that they have the same freedom that I gained those many years ago. Learning to love reading is one of my favorite fathering moments and it is definitely a hallmark of my family’s “Life on a Couch”!

For more “Dadventures” from Eric Bennion, go to his page at www.diarydad.com!

What’s the last book YOU read on the couch?

— Shawny

2 thoughts on ““Reading Set Me Free”

  1. neal

    There are two main places I read as a kid: one was in the middle of a patch of sunlight from the bay windows at the front of our house, and the other was on our old, well-loved but beat-up paisley patterned bright orange couch. I have really fond memories of both. That couch was a spaceship, a fort, a river raft, a pommel horse, a nest; it was always a comfortable place to land, for all sorts of activities, with reading at the top of the list. Wish we had a couch now that could inspire in my daughter the memories I have from my youth.

    Reply
  2. Larry

    My younger son was also inspired to read by seeing his older brother reading. He was picking up a book and holding it as if he was reading before he was two. Now he is an avid reader – and enjoys lying on the couch with a book in his hand as well.

    Reply

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