I think that one of the best and easiest ways to open the minds of your children to new thoughts, new ideas, and new places comes through reading. I believe that reading opens the door to more interests and ideas and concepts than anything else.
Take the past 24 hours, for example. I love to read aloud to my children…it’s excellent for helping them learn to listen and pay attention to others, it quiets their minds at night or in the middle of the day, and new concepts can be introduced that may not have otherwise crossed their radar. Right now, I am reading them an incredible, beautiful book called Inside Out and Back Again, the story of a young Vietnamese girl who flees with her family as Saigon falls. The girls have had so many questions and have related to the character so well that we have learned everything we could in the past few days about the Vietnam War.
I have learned more about the Vietnam War in the past three days than I have known in my life. My children, all 11 and under, now know more about the Vietnam War than I ever learned in school (and I was no slouch). What’s more, the book is written in beautiful blank verse, rather than prose. This has opened up an entire new way of thinking for them…an entire story told in poem. They are finally getting it, that poetry is music in words.
This afternoon, I sat on the couch with my seven-year-old, reading a Magic Treehouse book that she is working through. Jack and Annie were learning about coral reefs, and it sparked her interest. So, we put the book down and started searching everything we could find on coral reefs. I knew the basics, but what I learned with my seven-year-old in a half hour of searching blew me away. (For example, did you know that cays are whole islands formed on coral reefs, and that the sand is actually eroded coral sediment? How cool is that??)
Here’s the key to learning so much while reading: just like hikes, it’s not just about making it to a certain point. It’s about learning along the way. We never would have learned so much about Vietnam or coral reefs today if I would have told them to hush their questions till later. To learn, I have to be willing to put the book down, even frequently, and find the answers with them. This requires more patience than it might sound. :) But the journey is worth it.