CNN Parenting

Reading is fundamental -- to the family's happiness

Story highlights

  • Parents reading aloud to children improves the quality of their relationships, research shows
  • Many parents stop reading to their kids once they are able to read themselves, even when the kids don't want to stop

Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices.

(CNN)A couple of years ago, when my older daughter was 8, she gently told my wife and me that she'd gotten too old for us to read her books anymore. We didn't try to talk her out of it or numerate the many benefits of reading aloud to a child (even after they can do so themselves). We were disappointed but respected her agency.

When she was a toddler, we began a nearly daily ritual called Milk & Books. It quickly became the best part of any ordinary day as we devoured picture and chapter books that ranged from hilarious Shel Silverstein poetry to the dramatic prairie recollections of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Some titles came from authors prevalent in our own childhoods (E.B. White, Roald Dahl, Virginia Lee Burton, Dr. Seuss, Kay Thompson), and more came from the ever-growing list of contemporary greats (Mo Willems, Jon Muth, Kate DiCamillo, Andrew Clements).

    Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices. It considers old problems in new ways, and new problems that previous generations didn't face.

    When our daughter declared that she'd outgrown our family ritual, I suspected that a classmate made her self-conscious about it, perhaps one whose parents had done away with reading books to them. But I didn't ask her why she wanted to stop or reveal my sadness. She loves reading, so maybe our work was done, I thought. And I consoled myself with the notion that I had years of happy memories with her and more good years of M&B left with her little sister.
    Two weeks after stopping our bedtime readings, though, my older daughter asked whether we could start again. She simply enjoyed the ritual too much to let it go yet. As she later explained, "Everyone likes to be read to, even adults." We've continued uninterrupted since. Right now, we're deep into Philip Pullman's "The Golden Compass."
    The value of reading to our kids -- for them and us -- is reinforced by the growing body of research on the topic. Just last week, a met