Reading: Good for Your Social Life and Good for Your Kids

Before having children I was an avid reader – and why not? I had lots of unstructured time with which to do what I pleased. When I was single in NYC, there were long subway rides, lazy Sunday mornings in bed, and quiet moments after dinner to while away in the pursuit of a good read. One marriage and four kids later, those days are a distant memory. In fact, we gave up our Sunday New York Times subscription last year because the guilt of not reading it outweighed the sadness of cancelling it. The stacks of New Yorkers around the house, most of which I merely scan, or worse, restack, are enough of a reminder of the time “we used to have” for reading.

I haven’t completely given up on staying abreast of current events, though. In place of the NYT we now subscribe to The Week magazine. This terrific compendium of newsworthy events from around the globe has become a family favorite. It arrives weekly with the most perfectly digestible amounts of information and opinion. Since we made this switch, the most wonderful thing has happened – our kids read it. They also read The New Yorker. It must have something to do with the magazine’s prominent placement in the main loo, but never mind that, they read it and discuss it with us, and that is grand.In fact, when it arrives we all scramble to see who can get a hold of it first. I must say, it’s a hoot to hear my 10 year old recount a strange fact he read that day in an adult conversational style at dinner – a vast improvement over the usual scatological drivel the group can stoop to.

The sad truth is, that when I finally get the four kids to bed, I’m often so zonked, that reading acts like a soporific and puts me right to sleep.  I was becoming increasingly frustrated, not to mention nervous, about the growing tower of books leaning over my head as I slept, many of them with bookmarks in just the first few chapters. I needed a push, and lo and behold, along came the answer: Book Club. This has been a reading lifesaver. Were it not for the incentive that the next meeting date provides, I might never finish a book! There’s something about knowing that if you don’t finish, then you really shouldn’t go to Book Club where you’ll eventually hear the ending of the book discussed. By not attending you would avoid that, but you would also miss out on the company of friends, good wine and yummy food. That’s just unacceptable in my book (ha!). I look so forward to my time with my friends, that to miss any is unthinkable. So, I try to read the book no matter what it takes. Sometimes I sit in the hostess’ driveway until I do. I’ve also seen fellow Book Club pals reading in a wingback in the corner while the social portion is underway, or one time at a school meeting beforehand. Many of us treat it like a requirement for participation (it’s not), and as a result of our determination, we are rewarded by lively discussions and great camaraderie.

Recently, one of my pals from our ‘Reading Between the Wines’ Book Club informed us of a study that was conducted by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development which states, “a mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income.” http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/102510-reading-family-income.cfm

My eldest

Well, that right there is motivation enough for me! If I can revel in friendship and accomplishment while also improving my child’s chances of scholastic success, then I am more than happy – I’m successful. Maureen wrote here at AMKB about pursuing passion, as did Carla. In my life now, my marriage, my kids, and my friends are my passions, and books are hot on their heels. Through a few adjustments to what I read and how I read, I have been able to keep up with current events and great novels, while deepening my friendships and benefiting my children. A win-win I’d say.

My Chinese fortune cookie the other night said, “The world is a beautiful book for those who read it.”  Yes, so true.

I’d love to hear your stories of book clubs and about any great books you’ve read.

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About Katie Humphreys

Mother, teacher, lover, preacher, writer, driver, igniter, creature. Cleaning, reading, cooking, breathing, hiking, dreaming, biking, meeting. Learn more about her here.