Updated: May 28
A lot of things change when we grow up.
Our worldviews. Our interests. Our tastes. Our Priorities. Deadlines. Coffee needs.
Our lives expand to include a whole host of responsibilities that have us rushing from one task to the next, just to keep up.
We get wrapped up in a world of professional and personal development and begin the unconscious habit of “talking the talk” and “walking the walk” of serious grownups, in a serious world, that is always short on time.
This is a far cry from the silly playfulness and endless sense of time we had as kids.
I mean, if you’re the type of parent that gets home from work, sees a blanket, and gets immediately hit by the need to run around the house with it tied around your shoulders like a superhero, then you won't have this problem.
But for most people - our brains are “kaput” at the end of the day and still functioning in problem-solving semi-office mode, which can make it difficult to genuinely connect with our kids.
Children’s picture books can provide a ritual to help bridge the gap and build richer connections with our kids.
And which parent doesn't want that?
Why are Children’s Picture Books important for adults?
They let you tune into your inner child which fosters a richer connection with your kids.
They create unrushed “together time” that often sparks mutually interesting conversation.
They provide a source of silliness and inside jokes.
They help us to learn about each other.
They help everyone unwind together, before bed.
They won’t do all of this by themselves, of course, we have to play our part to really unlock these benefits, but we will get to that in a bit.
1. They can let you tune into your inner child and connect with your kids from that place.
Reading books with your kids before bedtime offers an external prompt, a deliberate shift in brain gears to disconnect from spreadsheets and to-do lists, and tune into your inner child.
Connecting with your kids from this place creates a space that's silly, curious, and full of wonder.
2. They can create unrushed “together time” that often sparks mutually interesting conversation.
Let’s be honest, most of the time parents and kids are on different wavelengths.
While there are lots of ways to bridge the gap, I don't think anyone would turn down extra help.
Dealing with other adults all day in a transactional manner can leave us feeling drained and make us fall into conversational pattern traps that are tricky to break out of.
These are speech patterns that we unintentionally bring home from the workplace which are not necessarily all that interesting to kids.
How was your day?
How was school?
How was Lunch?
How was xyz?
Which, in turn, creates just as patterned responses from kids, “fine”, “ok”, “good”.
Madness! We are living, breathing, walking, talking, wonder machines! Growing and changing everyday! Children's books can provide a mutual ground, bridging the age and interest gap, for us to react to new stimuli together.
Whether it be fantastical stories of mystical creatures or biographies of amazing people, or philosophical questions about life at large!
Books can spark conversational moments with your kids that you’ve never had before, but for which, you will be eternally grateful.
3. They can provide a source of silliness and inside jokes
Not only do our tastes change as we grow up, but we also accumulate a set of references from our lives that tend to pre-date our kids.
From movies and tv shows to our own life experiences.
Referring to these often leaves them lost without context.
Reading crazy/funny/informative books together will expose you both to a wide range of fiction and non-fiction topics in a short period of time. The important thing is that these topics/stories will become a shared set of references that you can both refer to and joke about together.
Books can accelerate this accumulation process of shared references far more than the regular routine of our daily lives.
4. They can help us to learn about each other.
They will learn about you:
While reading the wonderful variety of stories and topics that children’s books can offer, they often introduce concepts that your kids won't fully understand and will ask you about.
In answering these questions, they will learn about these concepts AND about you and your perspectives on the world.
You will learn about them.
Kids' books almost always feature main characters that are the same age as themselves.
This is done so that they can see themselves as the hero of these stories: facing fears, learning lessons, and overcoming challenges that seem impossible.
This will prompt them to pose questions to themselves, like what would THEY do or feel, if they were put in the same situations? Thus exploring concepts, feelings and ideas that they had never considered before.
And while they process these new concepts within the context of themselves, you will get to learn more about who this amazing little human is, as well.
5. They can help everyone unwind together, before bed.
Without unwinding our brains and bodies before bed, both adults and kids can have trouble getting to sleep.
That's why there are so many tools/apps/courses/products/youtube channels devoted to this topic!
And out of all of these various methods for adults and kids to get great sleep, my absolute “go-to” winner, are bedtime stories. Stories that everyone can enjoy, as we all unwind together.
Whether picture book or audiobook, I can't express how much I love this ritual. It sounds like a small thing, but to me, it's like a synchronized family slam dunk, at the end of every day:)
6. Bonus: 3 Ninja Tips to take bedtime stories to the next level
Curate books that BOTH you and your kids will enjoy.
What happens when you read a very enjoyable story?
You stop and reflect
You ask thoughtful questions
Your whole energy is present and pleasant and in the moment.
This is how we want kids to experience reading as well, right?
Well, if you buy books for your kids that you don't actually enjoy reading to them - you will be modeling for them, how reading books is actually “a chore to slog through”, instead of “a joy to indulge in”. Whichever it is, they will believe what they observe, not what they are told.
So the quality of books is pretty critical. You will need to curate a collection of books that are written to entertain both grownups and kids.
Yes! These picture books exist!
It's not all sickly sweet characters, pastel colors, and skull-bashing moral lessons… there’s some quirky gems out there that would make you want to recommend it to other parents at the bookstore.
When written and illustrated well, they will have levels of understanding and humor for kids and adults which entertain both and provide that mutual ground we’re looking for. This also makes re-reading books over and over, enjoyable instead of painful.
Why was that wolf so mean? Who eats a grandma?
What do you think he’ll do next?
Do you wonder what it would be like to be a robot?
Why do you think squirrels hide their nuts?
Questions take a story to the next level for me.
They show how engaged and interested in the story I personally am, which then invites my kid to get involved as well.
They can create mini-games, where you can test how observant your kid is.
They can build anticipation and tease curiosity, thus amping up the stakes of the story.
The right questions can teach you stuff - My personal favorite is asking a question about something from a book that I genuinely don't know about and then googling it for us both to learn something new!
Remember to get silly, Billy
This is more outside the comfort zone for some parents than others, but it is definitely worth mentioning: Learn how to read books to kids!
Make funny faces, do all the characters in different voices.
Make all the funny noises, like ducks honking and donkeys braying.
Sound out the action, CRASH! BANG! ZIP! ZOOM!
Be silly enough to sing parts of the book that require singing, even if you think you are a bad singer.
It really is a treat for kids to see their parents being as wacky as a kid and bringing life to the story. Silliness does wonders for the soul, so leave the seriousness of the day behind and get into it:)