Even a hundred years ago, it was an argument at plenty of dinner tables. They didn’t have TVs then, let alone iPads, but families were still fighting about what was happening at meal time, what was allowed to happen at the table. Parents were still comparing themselves against what they thought the neighbors were doing, what kind of behavior they were letting their kids get away with.
But not the Carter’s. Jimmy Carter’s family had settled the issue. His mother liked to read and after getting dinner ready, she wanted to sit down and enjoy her food with a book. The kids were encouraged to follow suit. It wasn’t considered rude, Jimmy would later reflect. Reading at the table was a Carter Family habit.
What a beautiful scene that must have been, even if it was a little untraditional. Each of their faces buried in a book. Each of them learning, entertaining themselves, widening their horizons. Each of them building the habit, the habit that turns a child into a lifelong reader. One that continue when he son became president and his own family moved into the White House.
Now, maybe this is a bit ambitious these days or for your family–screens are slightly more exciting to a kid than a book in the 21st century. But you can still encourage the habit, indeed you must. And the best way to do it is the way that Jimmy Carter’s mother did: By example. Her habit was a contagious one. She modeled what it meant to be a reader. She was also smart enough to bend some rules/dispose of some manners to encourage the habit. She was willing to trade evening conversation in order to get it.
As we say in The Daily Dad, we have to raise readers. We have to encourage, make a family habit of it. By whatever means necessary.