by Dr. Ken Canfield

We grandparents are uniquely equipped to help our grandchildren with reading. It’s such an important skill, and it’s one that many kids today aren’t all that interested in when they could be playing a video game or whatever. But we know the rewards and the excitement of reading good book, whether it’s for learning or entertainment or something else.

This struck me some years ago when my wife returned from volunteering at our grandchildren’s school. She did various tasks to help the teachers, but a lot of what she did was work one-on-one with kids, helping them with reading.

If we can help foster a love of reading in our grandkids, that’s a gift that will keep blessing them for the rest of their lives. But there are also some amazing benefits right here and now. For example:

Reading brings you into close proximity to your grandchild. You can watch TV from opposite sides of the room. Not so with reading. You share the same book and look at the pictures together. Maybe that’s why God gave us laps.

Reading encourages you to be interesting. If you read in a monotone, your grandchild will go to sleep. (Which in some cases could be another benefit!) But with something like Dr. Seuss or Berenstain Bears, it’s nearly impossible to read without changing your voice for different characters, acting scared or surprised, and involving yourself in the story.

You can create a habit and point of ongoing connection. If you create an expectation in your young grandchild that you’re always available to read a book, you’ll have many opportunities to interact with him or her from close up, as I’ve described. And as they get older, you can continue to ask about what they’re reading or talk about a fascinating book you just finished. Even into their college and adult years, that can be a shared point of connection.

So, make reading a big emphasis with your grands. How can you do that in a practical sense?

  • When you give gifts, include a book that you picked out just for them.
  • Take them to the library just for fun.
  • Ask them about what they’re reading in school, and maybe get a copy of that book and read it yourself, then talk about it.
  • If you live far away, buy two copies of the same book, send one to them, and then read it together through video chat.
  • When you’re together and not directly interacting, grab a book and act like it’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever seen. See if they don’t come over to check it out.
  • Volunteer at their school when you have the chance. By being there, you get to see what they do every day, and your presence communicates that reading and education are very important.

Grandparents, we really can make a difference here, and we should.

Now, what would you add to these thoughts? What benefits has the habit of reading brought to your relationship with your grandkids? And what practical ideas work for you when it comes to reading with them? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook page and help other grandparents.