Read With Me Night: A Treasured Tradition for Families
At Waterford, Read With Me Night is a treasured tradition for families in the Lower School.
Waterford’s Lower School has many long-standing traditions that enrich our students’ learning experiences. One of our “quieter” traditions is “Read with Me Night,” scheduled every month. Homework is not assigned on Read with Me Nights, so that Waterford students and parents can spend time together reading and connecting as a family in this meaningful way.
Reading independently and together as a family is such a treasured time, when parents can model a love of literature. When children are young, reading to them is a ritual of connection. And yet, parents naturally move away from these moments as children grow into more independent readers. No matter their age, the benefits of reading aloud with your child are abundant and long-lasting. When my own three children were in upper elementary school, I plucked Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows off of a bookshelf and reconstituted the ritual of reading to them each night. I was delighted, and a bit surprised at how much they still loved being read to!
Of course, reading is more than just treading through text. When we read, we look for patterns, understand nuance, and make inferences. Our automaticity belies the elegant complexity of the process. Reading aloud to your child, no matter their age, offers challenges at every developmental stage. As your child listens to you read, they learn to grapple with complex narratives, immerse themselves in figurative language and learn specialized vocabulary. They hear your speech patterns, enunciation, and expression. Listening to a parent read is a powerful way for a child to develop self-regulation, to stretch their attention span, and to increase working memory.
So, how can parents help children learn these deep and automatic skills? Although it feels counterintuitive, you can model being puzzled, attempting to understand what you are reading. As you read aloud, stop occasionally to talk with your child about what is confusing, and how you make sense of it. Look up unfamiliar words, and talk about contextual clues. Summarize what you have read so far, or ask your child to put it in their own words. Ask your child questions about the plot, themes, or how the characters change and why. These strategies can help your child feel more confident when reading on their own. Additionally, modeling these strategies challenges the notion that we all understand everything we read on the first try. And of course, when your child reads to you, there are also tremendous benefits. Research shows that reading aloud helps children engage more deeply with text, and can reduce reading-related stress.
Reading together helps families shape their identity as lifelong learners. Even if your child isn’t as cuddly as they used to be, reading is a great way to keep those connections strong. Much like riding in the car, where conversations seem to flow more easily, reading provides an opportunity for children to open up and share about their experiences as they see connections with what they are reading. Reading together also allows you to share your own experiences and empathize with your child.
Think about it–if you read together for 30 minutes every evening, seven days a week, you have created more than 180 hours of bonding time with your child, each year of their life! In an age of screens, stress, and diminished connection, what better way to spend time together as a family? As we work to develop passionate and curious readers at Waterford, we know parents play a key role. I would love to hear about your family’s reading traditions, and I wish you many hours of happy reading aloud together!
Melanie holds a doctorate in School Psychology and a Master of Science in Counseling from the University of Utah. Prior to being the Lower School Head at Waterford, Melanie held several positions at the McGillis School including Associate Head of School and School Psychologist. Melanie and her husband Michael moved to Salt Lake City 28 years ago to pursue their educational goals. In addition to appreciating the natural beauty of the mountains as a place to feed her passion for the outdoors, she and Michael quickly realized that Utah was the perfect place to raise a family. Melanie and Michael are proud Waterford School parents of Benjamin ’17, Nathaniel, ’19 and Carolina ’21.