One of the best ways to stimulate meaningful conversations with your children: Read to them
Becky and I have read to our children since they were infants. We read so much to them, and some of the books over and over (and over and over!) again, that they began to recite from memory every line of some books before they could read themselves. (In case you’re wondering, my favorite is Where the Wild Things Are by Maruice Sendak.)
Even after our two older children learned to read, we continue to read aloud to them. We’ve read aloud The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (and part way through The Silmarillion), Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, various biographies, and so much more.
As they grew older still (the older two are now 11 and almost 9), I began to read aloud to them non-fiction books on theology and Christian living. My favorite so far has been Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God. I’m currently reading to them Big Beliefs!: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths.
Reading aloud to children has so many benefits, including instilling in them a love for reading themselves.
But one of the greatest benefits I have found from reading non-fiction Christian books especially to older children is that it stimulates some really good conversations that otherwise might not organically happen in normal life conversation.
We parents want to have deep, meaningful conversations with our children about the important things of life: the gospel, of course, but also other matters of theology, Christian living, purity, character, leadership, etc. Often real life situations provide opportunities for these conversations to happen, but sometime they don’t just occur organically.
Having established a pattern of reading to your children is one way to organically create opportunities for important conversations. Some of the best conversations I’ve had with my children, at their initiative, have come from reading to them.
This has become especially true with something I have just recently begun to do with the two older kids. In addition to reading aloud to everyone together, I have recently started taking one night a week to read individually to each child by him/herself. I’m currently reading to Caleb Disciplines of a Godly Young Man by R. Kent Hughes and to Kate Feminine by Design by Scott Brown. Having these one-on-one times of reading together has stimulated many really good conversations that might not have happened naturally otherwise. I plan to continue this regular practice until each child is out of the house.
Bottom line: Start reading aloud to your children when they are young, and don’t stop. I think you’ll find the benefits are numerous, including stimulating meaningful conversations.
About Scott Aniol
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.