Read Together: Meet the Anderson family

Reading is a regular part of the Anderson family’s routine, but a part that parents Jenni and Devin aim to keep interesting and fun for their two young children.

“I don’t want it to be a chore,” Jenni said. “I would love for them to be kids, who as part of entertainment, they like to read.”

So they leave lots of choice in the process: If 4-year-old Carter and 19-month-old London are busy playing and uninterested in sitting down to read a book, Jenni will start reading while they play, giving them the opportunity to come and go as they please. They also let the kids choose the books, which, particularly for Carter, often means repeat readings of his favorites (a dinosaur book right now, and a superhero one before that).

“We’ve actually, literally, read a book until it fell apart,” Devin said.

They build reading-related activities into their days, visiting the library for storytime and new books, and walking to the Little Free Library in their neighborhood. Jenni’s mom subscribed Carter to Highlights magazine as a baby, and Jenni still makes a point of celebrating each issue’s arrival.

“I play that up, like, ‘Oh, it’s here, it’s here!’ every month,” Jenni said. “And the same with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. We know Ms. Dolly, to the point where Carter will see her picture somewhere, and he’s like, ‘Look, it’s Ms. Dolly!’”

Jenni loves reading herself, and often picks up a book or magazine while the kids are playing, so they see that it’s an activity she enjoys and values. 

“I read, too, and I kind of make sure the kids see me reading,” she said. “I don’t wait until the nighttime – although, oftentimes, that’s the only time I can really read! I always at least have a magazine around.”

They’ve seen all that reflected in their kids’ attitudes toward books, whether it’s Carter insisting on three books, not two, during his bedtime routine, or London starting to pick up books and page through them on her own.

“I think London, she’s blossomed,” Devin said. “She’ll grab a book and she’ll come up to us, and then she’ll bring that same book back 10 minutes later. So we read the book, over and over again. And she grabs books and flips through them on her own – she loves to do that.”

And while reading is very much a fun activity for their family, as parents, Jenni and Devin also think about it on a deeper level, knowing that time is helping their kids build important skills and understand more about themselves and the world around them.

“It’s the ultimate life lesson opportunity,” Jenni said. “Because there have been so many times, we’ll look at the pictures and ask, ‘Well, what would you do?’ Like reading a book about a little penguin jumping into the water. ‘What does it mean to be brave? When have you been brave? When has mommy been brave?’ It gets important conversations going.”

It also serves as a time to reconnect and spend quality time together, away from the distractions of a busy world.

“It’s just such a wonderful way to bond. It’s no phones, no tablets, no distractions,” Jenni said. “When you are beside each other, sharing a book together, that’s the ultimate bonding experience.”

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