Something we strive to inspire in our readers is a vivid imagination. There’s nothing quite like diving in to a good book and your mind immediately running wild with images and ideas. Helping children utilize and explore their curiosity and creativity is an important element to their development.
Books and stories have a special way of helping form a child’s imagination, and to help them understand the importance and the fun of creative play. Blogger, educator, and book enthusiast Ryan Billingsley tells us about the importance of storytelling in his household, and how he thinks it has positively effected his children. Read in his own words below!
Dad Suggests Giving the Gift of Storytelling to Your Kids
The Magic of Reading
My favorite way to describe the magic of reading books to kids is calling it a noble and sacred duty for parents. The benefits of growing up surrounded by stories are numerous, and I’m not just talking about the academic benefits and the boost to reading skills – not by a long shot. There’s a lot more to it than that. I honestly believe that consistent exposure to books is the second-best gift you can give your children – just behind your unconditional love.
All parents have their own set of priorities and things they want to teach and pass on to their children. And long ago I decided that imagination, creativity, and wonder were all going to sit at the top of my list. And I’ve found that stories are the perfect fuel for that fire. For that reason, books have been a part of the bedtime routine in our house every single night of our kids’ lives.
Imagination and Curiosity
I like to imagine that this constant exposure to beautiful art is responsible for giving our 6-year-old the heart of an artist and an inventor. He’s curious and imaginative, and he’s always wanting to create, express himself, and explore new things. I’ve long believed that having that sort of deep-rooted interest in life was a major key to happiness. And it’s my duty as a dad to nurture that spark and that excitement.
“I honestly believe that consistent exposure to books is the second-best gift you can give your children – just behind your unconditional love.”
I actually consider this cultivation of imagination and curiosity one of my most important fatherly responsibilities. After all, if kids are able to hold onto their childhood wonder as they grow older, they’re going to be well-equipped to find happiness in life. And it’s undeniable – the more they explore and the more they discover – that makes it all the more likely that they’ll find that thing they’re passionate about and gives their life meaning. And we should all be so lucky to discover that. And that’s why my family explores new worlds and new ideas and new types of people in the pages of books every single day. Every new story brings new understanding and new possibilities.
We read a lot of different kinds of books together with our children, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t personally attracted to certain types of books. My very favorite picture books can be split into three major categories: scary picture books, picture books about imagination, and picture books with life lessons.
Explaining the scary books is easy. I’ve always loved scary stories, and the books from my childhood that I have the most nostalgia for are by far the spookiest ones. When I pulled them out of my parents’ attic, I was ecstatic to share them with my own kids. And if I’m excited about the books, the kids are definitely going to pick up on that. And I think it’s particularly important for Dad to be a reading role model. You can’t ask for more than a read-aloud where everyone involved is excited about the book. That’s exactly the type of bonding experience we’re after.
I’m drawn towards books about the imagination for obvious reasons as well. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, childhood, and the imagination – so of course I love it when books encourage creativity. And I love stories that are so beautiful and imaginative that they stretch our kids’ imaginations and challenge what they believe to be possible. And it’s also why I have a soft spot for Blue Manatee Press for their stated mission of encouraging “experiencing the world through hands-on, creative play.” Books have an aura of authority, and I love it when they use it to encourage kids to be kids.
And, speaking of books using their authority for good causes, I absolutely love using books to teach. As an example, going back to my list of priorities as a dad that I want to pass on to my kids, the undisputed number one item on that list is empathy and kindness. Books have an incredible ability to grow empathy in children as they meet new characters and explore their feelings. But that’s certainly not all they can teach. I credit books for helping us teach our kids about death, fear, self-confidence, the environment, love, equality, and so much more.
That’s what I mean when I say giving the gift of storytelling is about so much more than the academic benefits and the boost to reading skills. When I’m sharing the books I loved as a kid, reading together is a powerful and important bonding opportunity that can’t be underestimated. When we’re discovering new worlds and exploring beautiful art together, it’s a chance to feed our kids’ imaginations and give them the tools that help them discover happiness in life. And whether the lessons in the books are explicit or not, there’s definitely more learning taking place than we can ever fully understand.
Ryan Billingsley is a father of two, a teacher, and the lead writer for DadSuggests.com – where he highlights personal recommendations for kids books, family games, and more.