June 20, 2015

On Father's and Reading

Happy Father's Day!  I send this heartfelt greeting to all men who provide a sense of "daddy-ness" to the children in their lives.  Uncles, grandpas, neighbors, friends - the list goes on and on.  Every man has the capacity to serve as a father figure. 

So, what does it mean to be a father? At a basic level, biology can be one factor. But in the essence of what goes into actually being a father, biology is of little to no real importance.

So what is important? In my job as the Children's Librarian, I have the amazing privilege of seeing what’s important on a daily basis.  My heart warms when I see men spending time with children - holding babies in their arms and on their laps as they read to them, sing to them and provide them with that critical sense of "you are important to me.  You belong. You matter."   

And that is what we all crave; what we all need - to know we're valued, to feel we belong, to know we are loved.  So, yes, men spending time with children is hugely important.  But, it's not just time.  It's what's happening in that shared time.  There must be a connection, an investment, a willingness to truly participate.  And when that happens with love and consistency, lives are forever changed - for both child and adult.

There are many ways to spend time and connect with a child.  And one of the best ways to do so is to read aloud. Children are never too young or too old to be read to.  In fact, the benefits continue and even multiply over time - for both child and adult.

I've seen it time and time again over the course of my almost forty-year career working with children and families. I've also witnessed it first hand in my personal life with my sweet husband, our three daughters and now, three grandchildren.  Reading aloud creates, enriches and sustains life-long connections - of books and hearts. 

Need more convincing?  Check out two books from the library - both of which provide living examples of the life-long impact of men reading to children.  First - The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (a dad who read to his children).  Next - The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma. This author was read aloud to by her father every day from the time she was young until she graduated from high school.  Talk about deep connections and inspiration. 

So let's have Father's Day serve as a read-aloud celebration of books and hearts!  To the men who are reading this column - come to the library today and find some great books to share.  To the women who are reading this column - let's support our men doing this with our children and grandchildren.

And finally, Happy Father's Day to the three amazing men in my life who carry the gauntlet of being engaged, sensitive, father figures to so many - my husband, Justin and my sons-in-law Bryce and Aaron.  I admire and love you each and all and deeply appreciate what you give to the children in our lives - reading aloud, of course, included.
Kathleen Ahern
Youth Services Librarian

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