Read Together: Meet the Herrera-Kweman family

Reading time is family time for Carlos Herrera, Monica Kweman, and their 5-year-old daughter, Mila.

“It’s all of us together,” Monica said. “I would say that it’s very rare that we are doing it only Mila and I, or it’s only Carlos and her. That reading time is really all of us together. It’s our family time. And I think that, itself, is creating good memories for Mila.”

And in the years since Mila was born, that time has become an essential part of their day.

“We read every night, right before we go to sleep,” Carlos said. “We read, we pray, and then go to sleep. We have done that since Mila was a baby. It becomes a routine; it becomes a habit. If we don’t read, she won’t sleep.”

What and how much they read each night varies, the family said, depending on time and energy. Sometimes it’s three books, and other times it’s a few pages from a longer story.

“Most of the time, Mila picks. She is always up for it,” Monica said, laughing. “But when we’re tired, or when I’m tired, I pick the shorter book, and then we negotiate. She has started liking the longer books, so we’ll negotiate and say, ‘What about if we read five pages today?’ And she will count it, too, and say, ‘This is not five pages! This page does not have any writing – it’s only pictures!'”

Mila’s favorite books are always changing, so they try to keep a variety at home for her, often swapping books at a Little Free Library or visiting a used bookstore that Mila loves. The family also receives a book in the mail each month through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Their collection includes books in different languages, as Carlos and Monica are both bilingual.

“We have a book of Peppa Pig in Spanish – she likes that,” Carlos said. “We have a book also that teaches how to read in Spanish, so I read that with her sometimes. Monica has one in Indonesian, too. So she gets exposed to different languages.”

They hope their time reading together is helping Mila build skills that will make her a strong reader, and habits that will stay with her throughout her life.

“I do believe that it starts at home,” Monica said. “However quick she starts reading – I don’t think that’s important. But it’s the habit itself, starting it at home.”

They also hope their reading routine affirms to Mila how important and loved she is.

“I think that she feels loved when we read for her,” Monica said. “At her age, she’s not asking much. She’s asking for our time, and our undivided attention. And I think reading for her, as much as playing with her – that’s love for her. That’s her love language. Those little things that we’re giving to her, the time, the reading together, I think that’s irreplaceable.”

For Mila, the meaning of that time is simple. When asked to sum up what reading together means to her, she said: “I love you.”

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