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Why do we Read Books to Children?

Mum reading to children

A therapists perspective…

We are constantly told that reading to young children is a good thing, usually in terms of learning to read, expanding vocabulary and getting ahead educationally. But the truth is that books do so much more. During challenging times there can be nothing more comforting than a book that resonates, enlightens or just seems to understand.

As Kafka (Writer and philosopher) wrote in a letter in 1904, ‘A book must be the axe that smashes the frozen sea within us.’ He goes on to say that we read because life is more than just the things that happen to us. Of course – he’s right. Inside us profound thoughts and feelings are taking shape in response to our experiences, but they so often remain unexamined.

Over time these untapped thoughts and feelings can crystalise, becoming harder to reach. Maybe they are too painful and leaving them to freeze over is our unconscious attempt to protect ourselves. But maybe we would really benefit from addressing these feelings, it’s just that no-one ever found a safe way in. Perhaps opportunities were missed many years ago, when we were children. Sometimes, as Kafka so powerfully describes, it takes an axe to smash the frozen sea within us. And the release can be immense. Finding a book that helps you reach the glorious sea of your child’s inner life, well before it freezes over is a magical opportunity.

The act of reading to a child is usually a gentle, nurturing experience but the emotional impact can be dramatic. Whilst you sit closely together, your child’s vibrant inner world is making connections to the outside world. No longer feeling huge and confusing, it starts to make sense. With your ability to modulate the tone, pause the story and then continue instinctively – your child can hear of loss and pain and joy and devastation all with your arm around them and your familiar voice bringing the story to life. A screen can never replace this.

As a parent it can be hard for to find the ‘right’ words for painful situations or intense feelings. It is such a relief to find that someone out there has found them and woven them into a story. Even better, a story with beautiful pictures.

‘A book must be the axe that smashes the frozen sea within us’.

Franz Kafka, Writer & Philosopher

If you have a specific area of parenting you are finding challenging to approach with your child, we have a number of book recommendations on our website that might connect with you and your own child’s story. Take a look.


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