"The Enchanted Hour," by Meghan Cox Gurdon, Harper Collins, 2019

My 5-year-old, while looking for a lost ball, echoed the three bears. “Mom, we must make a further search.” When the three bears saw someone had entered their house and couldn’t find her, their only solution was, “We must make a further search.” These words were new additions to his vocabulary after repeated reading of a favorite story. I became a believer in the value of reading to children at an early age.

Researchers claim that if you share a book with a child from the age of 6 months to age 3, he would hear more than 219,000 words of text in a year. Picture books have very few words in them, but they provide a wonderful opportunity to talk about the pictures and develop closeness.

Reading aloud everyday takes discipline. The reader is tired and busy, but this is a battle worth winning. After the child learns to read on his own, continuing to read together is a way to connect in a low-pressure act of love. Stick with it as he grows up into a lifetime of being an avid reader. Reading aloud together is a kind of magic elixir.

One family told Meghan Gurdon that they had intended to establish a read aloud time, but had never gotten around to it. She offered strategies to help them. First they had to turn off technology and commit themselves to that old idea of books made from paper. The touch and feel of a book is so different.

She assured the mother of the family that no matter if the daughter was in fourth-grade, it's never too late to take advantage of the family companionship of reading together. Start with 10 minutes and gradually increase the time. It will become a wonderful time to bond.

The Rand Corp tracked the effect on children whose fathers were deployed by the military. Jack was a year old when his father, Kevin disappeared from his day-to-day life. Kevin recorded picture books and mailed them to Jack. When Kevin came home after a year, Jack ran to the bookcase, pulled out "Curious George," the last book Kevin had sent. He climbed into Kevin’s lap for a read aloud time in person. Reading had kept the connection for a year in a 2-year-old.

Women’s Storybook Project of Texas, founded in 2003, keeps children of incarcerated moms connected through the joy of literature. Volunteers bring boxes of books and computers and record mothers reading a book to their child. The CD along with a copy of the book is mailed to the child. Children who hear their mothers’ voices know they are loved despite the distance.

JoAn Watson Martin is an educator.

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