Two-year old Jack splashed in the tub as his mother, Alice Kirke, washed his hair. With each rinse, tension began to build. Her husband, Kevin Kirke, was a Marine major who had been serving in Afghanistan. Kevin had not seen his son for one year, but now he was home, ready for that first night together. Would Jack display separation anxiety? Would Kevin be a stranger to his son?
After the bath, Alice put Jack in his pajamas. He raced to his bedroom and grabbed Curious George off the bookshelf. Alice told what happened next: “Jack…ran back to Kevin, turned around and backed into Kev’s lap, sat down, and handed him the book.”
Alice would tell you that this was not a fluke. Kevin participated in a military program for deployed parents to connect to their children by reading stories. Using recorded sessions, Kevin read picture books to Jack. To their delight, Alice and Kevin witnessed the power of reading aloud to children.
Written by Wall Street Journal columnist Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Enchanted Hour spans a vast landscape of brain science, behavioral research and astounding stories about the impact of this simple act of reading to a child or to a teenager or to a dementia patient. I shook my head in wonder at each turn of the page, inspired by funny stories from her own family (she is the mother of five) and others who had found their lives “dazzlingly” transformed.
A promise appears on the back cover:
Imagine an elixir so strong that a daily dose would make your family smarter, happier, healthier, more successful, and more closely attached. Now imagine that you would have it without spending a dime. It all starts with a book, a voice, and a place to sit.
Inspired to action, I began a Zoom story-time with my grandchildren who live far away. Every month I lug home a bag of books from the library and sift through the collection, selecting the ones that will be fun to read. Once story-time begins, I see them study the pictures and chip in comments that relate to their lives or books they are reading.
One favorite moment came when my husband read Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem Jabberwocky. My daughter listened and then began to recite the poem from memory. She probably had not read the poem for many years. This “magic elixir” had been secretly planted in her mind, blossoming in one delightful moment.
Many parents struggle with the intrusion of screens and devices, worried about the effect it has on their children. Here is the solution. Read this book! Take action! Read aloud to your family. It is an “alarmingly easy” and fun remedy to a crisis of distraction in our times.