In The Enchanted Hour – The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction, Wall Street Journal writer Meghan Cox Gurdon hooked me immediately with the words on the book jacket. “Imagine an elixir so strong that a daily dose would make your family smarter, happier, healthier, more successful and more closely attached, even as technology pulls us apart at times.”
Grounded in the latest neuroscience and behavioral research, and using examples in beloved children’s literature, The Enchanted Hour describes the cognitive and social-emotional benefits of listening to someone read aloud. “Reading aloud consoles, uplifts and invigorates at every age,” says Gurdon, “deepening the intellectual lives and emotional well-being of teenagers and adults, too.”
Like Gurdon, I believe that “a miraculous alchemy occurs when one person reads to another, transforming the simple stuff of a book, a voice, and a bit of time into complex and powerful fuel for the heart, brain, and imagination.” I read aloud weekly to students in Kent’s Preschool, Kindergarten and First Grade classrooms. Given that my own children are now grown and gone, and I no longer read Goodnight Moon every single night, these moments are some of the most sacred times in my schedule, and I am truly sad when I am not able to read. The Enchanted Hour has made me realize that children at all grade levels would benefit from hearing a book read to them. Perhaps I need to rethink my schedule next academic year!
Rethinking evening hours at home may also be beneficial. Common Sense Media and Sesame Street together have recently announced a campaign for #DeviceFreeDinners as a way to help families stay connected in our digital age. We all know that eating dinner together as a family is a good thing, but life often gets in the way. New research, however, provides support for the importance of family dinner, when kids learn vocabulary, work on manners, share stories and practice healthy eating habits. This article provides some interesting statistics.
Along with those special times when we share and listen to stories together, the evening hours when we are reconnected at the end of each long day are enchanted and should be protected.