Nate reading Pragmatic Mom caught in the act of reading Maximum Ride

Going Against the Grain – Choosing Not to Read to Your Kids

Should Kids Should Not Be Read To?

Educators emphasize the need to read to kids. You will hear things like reading to a child improves a child’s vocabulary, improves the learning experience for a child and fosters the bond between a child and the reading parent. All true by the way.I was interviewed for a piece online where I was asked if I was read to as a child and if I read to my kids. The first part of the question took me a little longer to answer. I had to go through a lot of file cabinets in my brain to reach my childhood files I guess. I really don’t remember being read to as a child. I was surrounded by books and developed my affinity for the written word early in life but it was not because I was read to by my parents.
My kids however love being read to. It’s our night-time ritual, we would start with one book and then another, my preschooler just pleads for more till I say “enough!” I love how they snuggle close by me as I read to them and I am delighted that my little ones enjoy reading (in their case, being read to) like I do. So that clears out half the question.This got me thinking. I know of friends and acquaintances that read to their kids when their kids were little and cannot get their now grown kids to pick up a book if their lives depended on it. These parents read to their kids the same way you got a child to eat vegetables, “It might taste bad but it’s good for you”.

The story of Ben Carson also came to mind. Ben Carson is a prominent pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins who made news 20 years ago when he lead the team that successfully separated Siamese twins joined in the head. He was raised by a single mom who took him and his brother to the library frequently and had them reading to her. She never read to them. They both turned out to be well accomplished in their chosen career paths. They were not aware at the time that their mom would not read to them because she was illiterate.

My mom has a college degree but chose to have me read to her instead. I started out reading out letters of the alphabet, then short words, then longer words and sentences. If I asked for the meaning of word, she made me get out an Oxford dictionary and taught me how to look it up. She made me read aloud food labels, recipes as she cooked, newspapers, bill boards, just about anything in print she could lay her hands or eyes on.

She bought me books too, plenty of them. I doubt if she knew she was going against the grain by not reading to me but somehow it worked. I developed a level of comfort around the written word early in life that served me well.

So if reading to your kids is an unpleasant chore for you don’t sweat it, get them reading to you instead and you will be bound to raise a reader still.

Bola Ajumobi is a mom of 2 boys under 5 and wife to another under 40. She is a literacy advocate and owns an online kids bookstore, where you will find an array of books for kids but somehow still finds time to function as family physician some of the time.

Additional article: Children Teach Themselves to Read, Psychology Today.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Dee

    Interesting. I do read to my son. At 10, he still doesn’t like to go to sleep without someone reading to him and it puts him to sleep. (Is that a good thing or a bad thing? LOL) He is not a great reader. He likes it in theory, but not in practice. Sometimes I worry that I am making him a lazy reader by reading to him, yet I appreciate the fact that he enjoys a good story.

    My mom read to me up to a point, then I read to myself, voraciously. But I was a whole lot more independent than my son from Day One. My mom was also a whole lot more hands-off than I am. In some ways that was a good thing; in some ways I wished she had been more involved. I guess there is no one right way to parent!
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  2. Ann

    Really interesting, love the doctor story!

    I read to my kids a lot. My daughter is a very early reading but actually don’t think they correlated especially since my son, while only 4 doesn’t seem to be following suit. I do it because my fondest memories were of my mom reading to me plus I love kids books.
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  3. I love that you posted this Mia, because nothing in life is clear cut.

    For some families reading aloud may simply not work, but this is not the end of the world. In fact, it may empower kids in a different way.

    Enjoyed reading it!

    Read Aloud Dad
    Read Aloud Dad recently posted…Warning! This Picture Book Might Change Your Child’s LifeMy Profile

    • Hi Read Aloud Dad,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the article and kudos to you for being so open minded because I know how much your twins have benefited by your commitment to read to them! I know my kids love being read aloud to, even now and my youngest is 8-years-old. But I can also see how not reading aloud makes a child motivated to read a book for himself or herself. Perhaps a combination is good too!
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Does Your Daughter Want to Be a Model?My Profile

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