“I would tell you stories from dawn to dusk if it meant filling your eyes with happiness.” ~ Elizabeth Lim
As a child who had been read to by my parents during the years of my growing up, I cannot emphasize enough how precious those moments are and the lifetime of comfort they offer. Reading and being read to awakens the imagination, and what is life without a little imagination?
To be able to make something out of nothing is magic. Reading to your child, in that sense, equals equipping them with a super-power that will last them a lifetime and sustain them even when all else fails; and it will, every once in a while, it will. Knowledge is important for being alive in this world, for understanding its ways and for fixing life when it is out of order, but imagination is crucial for transcending the world, subverting it, having fun but also for feeling deeply. Imagination is important for being your own Alice in your own Wonderland. This magic called imagination is a super-power that is parcelled and gift-wrapped in stories. Reading is the act of unpacking the gift which belongs to you and your child alone to create stories out of stories. Something no one can take away. Friendship resulting from imagination outlasts every other. The one telling a story and the one listening to it, both enter into the unbreakable bond of an active imagination that results in a unity of similar minds and the joy and comfort of being understood. People equipped with the magical powers of imagination cannot outgrow each other. Time and generation gap mean nothing. In the words of Walt Disney, “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever.”
Every individual that imagines is alive in two worlds simultaneously. When the real one gets hard and tedious to get by, one can bolt into the other with the speed of thunder. Reading is nourishment for your child’s soul. A life-saver. Now that I’ve talked at length about the importance of an active imagination for both child and mother, let me also talk about the simplest ways to develop in your child the ability to imagine: bedtime. Read to your child before bed, then leave them to dream sweet dreams. At places of climax in stories, pause and let them imagine the possible scenarios of what could happen next. At the end of their bedtime story ask them if they would have preferred it to end differently. If yes, what would they change and why? Likewise, during the daytime give them books to read of their own and allow them to narrate the story to you any way they like. Give them the freedom to tweak parts of the story during their narration. To read, discuss and create stories in companionship with a loved one is beautiful. Stories empower. They teach empathy and transcend reality. As Albert Einstein would say, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”