There's some bit of nonsense at the end of some of Squire's latest audiobooks that just burns me up. It says that it's important for kids to be read to... and that in today's busy world, blahblahblah, audiobooks are just as good as a parent reading to a child. In today's busy world on what planet, I'd like to know. Audiobooks are great --and I certainly appreciate Jim Dale for his ability to read Harry Potter and the Gobbledygook over and over again, because once was fine, but once was enough-- but they're not the same as reading aloud.
Now, I understand that not everyone is the fantastic reader I am. I am to reading what Jules Winnfield is to a foot massage: I don't be ticklin' or nothing! But I do not read to my son because I love the sound of my own voice (shut up!). I read to him because:
1. It's fun to do things together. It's fun to watch movies together, learn things together, go on trips together, because we can talk about it afterwards. How cool was it when Will got his wish of snow for his birthday? It wasn't what we expected at all, was it?
2. It's good to see how he thinks. I think it's important for me as a parent to observe how information gets processed, and to guide the processing when it's tangled, and sit back and relish it when it is as clear as only a child's processing can be. I get more out of a book when I read it to him because I see it in his eyes and mine at the same time.
3. It is good for me as a reader to read aloud. Words sound different, and sentences sing or they don't, and it's different than reading in my head. I would have missed some of the magic of "The Subtle Knife" if I'd read it to myself, and I'm glad I've had someone to read to.
4. If he has questions while I'm reading to him, he can ask. This might not be As True for girls as for boys, but it's been my observation that it's easier to talk about something if you stumble over it together. It's true for vocabulary definitely, and also for storytelling.
5. It is fun to experience things that are generally solitary together. So much of what we experience is solitary, even if we're all in it together-- reading together is like watching a television show where both people are watching the same show at the same moment, and both people can hit the pause button whenever they want to be witty or insightful or confused. I like the remote control in the middle of the couch, and I like reading as a companionable activity.
Please understand: I like audiobooks. Kids have the ability to listen to the same thing over and over again (CrazyFrog, I hate you so much) and it's been great for Squire to have that available to him, because I wouldn't do it. I understand that in "today's busy world" we sometimes can't take time for everything that we feel we ought to do for our kids. I really do get that and I also understand that I am privileged to have the time to read to my kid. But I think that if you don't, you're hurting... not so much the kid, because whatevs, kids are tough. But you're hurting yourself. And I'm angry that these audiobooks, in the interest of marketing audiobooks, imply that they're more able to do your job than you are. Delegate the housekeeping, delegate the lice removal. But really, why delegate the fun stuff? And reading is fun.