Reading to a Child; Play’s Most Intimate Moment



"As every parent who has read a bedtime story knows, this is all happening in the context of face-time, of skin-to-skin contact, of the hard-to-quantify but essential mix of security and comfort and ritual. It’s what makes toddlers demand the same story over and over again…"

Dr. Perri Klass, “Bedtime Stories for Young Brains”

I was a pretty lucky kid.  Not only did my mother read me stories while sitting in her lap or lying in bed but she also made up stories.  She was not Aesop but her stories about Teeny Minnow, Professor Carp, Goldie Goldfish and others have a permanent place in my memory.  Like many of our parents, my Mom’s parenting skills could have used some help but when it came to engaging my imagination, she was a maven.

She didn’t just engage my imagination but provided me with a lifetime love of books, reading and storytelling.  The stories I told my kids had characters like Smedley the Evil Snail, Ralph the Heroic Dog, The Birdie Brothers and based upon what I see in their reading habits and their sometime references to those characters, it looks like I passed on some of my Mom’s gift to me.

Those thoughts drifted through my head as I came upon a New York Times article by Dr. Perri Klass, “Bedtime Stories for Young Brains.”  Dr. Klass writes about a recent study that indicates that  “… children who were exposed to more books and home reading showed significantly more activity in the areas of the brain that process visual association…” 

And what does that mean? 

It means that they will become better readers and storytellers.  It seems that listening to a story forces an individual to imagine what things look like.  

She therefore justly raises a concern that watching a story may take away from the need to imagine and therefor fall short of the stimulation that comes from hearing a story.  She may be right but there do not, at least at this time, appear to be any studies that support that notion.

I tend to be agnostic on what constitutes literacy.  I think any time a parent engages with a child in watching a cartoon, a scary movie, playing board or video games or even actively watching television; something good is happening.  Having said that, telling a child a story may be the most precious gift we can give because the sound, the feeling and the words sometimes stay in the mind…forever.


2 thoughts

  1. Grandma storytelling was the best- Henrietta and Antoinette the twins were my favorite and Jimmy Carp –
    Perhaps that is why I love fish so much
    Susan (Richman) Williams

  2. You storytelling took me back, Richard, to my own experiences, listening to Mom’s stories that she told with delight, humor, and anticipation that something wonderful was about to happen… if only we kids would eat just a few more peas.
    Thank you!

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