Considering all the support the Gates Foundation gives to literacy initiatives around the world, it comes as little surprise that Bill and Melinda Gates embrace the benefits of reading at home with their kids, too.
“One great thing about reading with your kids is that you don’t ever have to stop,” Melinda, a mother of three, tells NPR. “I’ve been reading to them since the day they were born, and I still share books with them today, even though our oldest is in college.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reading aloud to your children and talking about pictures and words in age-appropriate books can strengthen language skills, literacy development, and parent-child relationships.
What’s more, a study conducted this year by a number of pediatricians shows children with more home-reading exposure have greater activity in the parts of the brain that help with mental imagery and narrative comprehension.
So what are the best books to read to your kids?
As part of its Storybook Project, NPR asked a number of authors, actors, politicians, philanthropists, scientists, and musicians to reveal their all-time favorite books they’ve read to their kids. It’s a great resource for parents hoping to prime their kids for success, as well as adults who want to revisit the lessons of their childhood.
The Gates’ favorites offer touching lessons about life and love. “Ultimately, sharing stories is a way to connect with other people, and that’s what I love about reading with Jennifer, Phoebe, and Rory: It’s a magical way for us to connect with each other,” Gates says.
For more favorite books, head to NPR’s ongoing Storybook Project.
Sam McBratney’s “Guess How Much I Love You”
“As we went on we’d embellish on what happens in the book and talk about the different ways we loved each other, which meant that reading the book was always a wonderful voyage of discovery for all of us.”
Robert Munsch’s “Love You Forever”
Gates tells NPR that she and husband Bill loved reading their kids’ favorite bedtimes story to them.
“It’s about life from birth to death, about the continuity of generations, and as we read we could see the road ahead for our family,” she says. “The kids never understood why we were always crying by the time we finished.”
Jacqueline West’s “The Books of Elsewhere”
“As my two younger kids got older, we started reading Jacqueline West’s ‘The Books of Elsewhere,’ about a girl who gets transported inside mysterious paintings on the walls,” Gates tells NPR. “We’d pull up to school a little early every morning and read these silly, fun books together, as a way to start the day with our priorities in the right place.”
Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series
“My son Rory and I went through a phase in which we read a lot of dystopian fiction together, and we loved the writing and the imagination in these books so much that we talked about them at family dinner and went around the table figuring out what our daemons would be if people actually had daemons,” Gates tells NPR.
Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”
Gates tells NPR that she always loved author Ray Bradbury’s writing, and she thought her son Rory would feel the same way.
“When I started reading Fahrenheit 451 aloud to him, we were both struck by its specificity — not just the specificity of the language but also the crispness with which he brings the world and its issues to light,” she says.
Gates says they were astounded when they found out Bradbury wrote the novel in nine days at a typewriter he rented for 20 cents an hour.
Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”
Most recently, Gates tells NPR that she read this book after her sister saw the play adaptation in London and suggested reading the book.
“The book gives you a different perspective on a kid with Asperger’s,” Gates says. “His family really loves him but they’re also under a lot of stress, and it takes a real emotional toll on them. So we all enjoyed peeking into the mind and heart of somebody who looked at the world a little differently.”
This article is published in collaboration with Business Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Rachel Gillett is a careers reporter at Business Insider.
Image: Children read books. REUTERS/Andres Stapff.