But some parents feel self-conscious when they read aloud, says Judy Freeman, the author of a guide to read-aloud books called Books Kids Will Sit Still For. Freeman says they should get over their inhibitions.It never occurred to me that some parents don't read aloud to their kids, because one of my strongest memories of childhood was of my mother reading to me and my siblings. My father would read, too, sometimes. I particularly remember at Christmastime he'd read us A Cajun Night Before Christmas and A Prarie Night Before Christmas*. But my mother was the one that did the bulk of the reading. Most nights, we'd argue about what book we'd read, and then we'd argue about who was going to sit closest to her, and then we'd argue about the people on the outside pushing in too close to the people on the inside, and eventually, my mother would start reading. The arguing usually stopped then.
"Your kids don't know the difference. They just want to be warm, and they want to hear your voice, and they associate the words with you," she says. "It turns them into readers. If you want your kids to read, you have to read to them."
Reading aloud to kids is a good idea no matter what time of year, says Freeman, but the holidays can be an incentive to get started.
I don't know if it was the years of practice or natural talent, but my mother was an excellent reader. She quickly found the pace of each of the books that we read, and she'd captivate us by her voice. Those of us who sat on the outside often had to strain over our siblings to see the pictures in the books, but we never had to strain to hear her voice.
Later on, when we were in elementary school, she'd volunteer at the library to read aloud to the kids in school. I always felt both proud and weird when it was my class's turn to hear my mom read. It was strange to not sit next to her, but it was awesome to hear her voice. The other mothers, in my very biased opinion, weren't nearly as good as she was.
*I highly recommend both of these books if you're starting a Christmas reading tradition of your own in your house. I may very well make my dad read these to us when we go to the ranch for Christmas next week. He does the accents so wonderfully, and all the childrens' books are there.
And also Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory.