RICHMOND, Va. -- Drew, Remy, Lindy and Billy Moraca, make up a family of four — soon to be five — in Midothian. They treasure the simple things in life, like spending time together.
On Labor Day, when they could choose toys or TV during their day off from school, these kids pick something different for their entertainment.
They head to their bookshelf. It’s a family event. The Moracas read together, out loud.
“It's just quality time to go at the end of the day and winding down before bed or just if it's warm outside and we're done with screen time. It's just a nice way to cuddle and learn about something new or read a fun book from our childhood,” Drew, the father of Remy and Billy, said.
Reading is woven into the fabric of who they are and what they do. They take monthly trips to the library to find new adventures hidden on the pages of each book.
“We'll take the kids to the library, they love doing that. It's that big. But we take a big box, we fill it up. We get about, like, 25 to 30 books, and then we've got new books for our rotation, which they love, and they get to pick their own,” mom Lindy said.
What once started as mom and dad reading to Remy and Billy is now quite different.
Seven-year-old Remy is now reading to her parents and brother.
Remy reads lines from “Big Bad Bruce."
“There was no need to worry. But if the big fellow was feeling frisky and ready for fun it was time to be aware of the bear.”
This time last year, the book was too advanced for Remy.
Lindy recognized her progress in one short year, noting that “her reading skyrocketed. That’s awesome.”
Repetition and consistency helped her reading and confidence soar. Now, Remy is giving advice to others trying to read. “Sound out the words. Read them out. Kind of break it down into little pieces to find the big word.”
Reading is part of their daily lives.
“At the end of the day, when it's bedtime, we'll read books and it's just part of our routine. They brush their teeth and they get in bed after they pick a couple of books, and then we sit and read them together. And sometimes they're silly books and we get our sillies out before bed. Sometimes they're more serious books. Sometimes they're more collaborative books, where we're looking at the pictures and talking about them," explained Drew. "But just that quality time we get with each other, it just calms the body. It clears the mind from whatever happened in the day or whatever we've got going on tomorrow and just makes for a nice transition into the evening before bed.”
It’s a ritual they all look forward to — so much so that Remy now also adds what she loves at the start of her day.
“Sometimes I get up early, and I don't really want to go back to bed, so I get up, I turn on the light, shut the door, and I pick some books off the shelf and start reading,” Remy said.
Lindy confirms Remy’s new practice, “That’s how she’s been starting her day lately.”
This idea of reading together out loud is at the core of a national nonprofit headquartered in Richmond. They strive to cultivate a culture of literacy in every community. They believe reading aloud to children can change their future.
Christa Donohue, the executive director of "Read to Them," loves seeing the Moracas integrating reading into their lives.
“It is phenomenal to see the impact that reading aloud together can have on a family," said Donohue. “The act of reading aloud together helps to build social and emotional bonds between caregivers and kids. It’s been proven to increase empathy. Reading aloud to kids helps to bolster those skill sets that are needed for success in school including things like increasing phonic awareness and expanding a child’s vocabulary which are the foundations for building good reading skills.”
Remy is living proof. She shared that she volunteers in class to read because she feels confident.
“I feel like I’m confident because I am going through the reading. I feel like I'm really good at it. I like reading out loud.”
And Remy is not about to stop — her next big adventure is “Harry Potter.”
For this family, reading together is about more than just improved reading skills for the kids.
It’s a pastime, passed down from Drew and Lindy’s parents.
“I was read to every day as a kid, and I just have such good memories of that sometimes. It was just like the only time when you really had that one-on-one time with your parent after a long day of work, or school. It just made me feel special,” Lindy said.
They both hope the ritual of reading will continue for generations to come.
“I hope they'll always love literature, reading, holding a book. We write a lot of notes for the kids inside their books, like how old they were when we got it for them or why we got it for them. So I hope that they pull out their books when they get older and feel the nostalgia like we do and want to keep sharing the stories, the special,” Lindy said.
“I hope it instills, like, a lifelong yearning for learning, because there are so many books out there that are helping with values and how to approach topics, challenges in life and struggles, and also, like, the happy things like creativity and imagination and all that. And I just hope that it shapes them and their character and their personalities from it," Drew added.
The Moracas also helped create the Little Free Library resource for their neighborhood. To learn what the Little Free Library is and how they helped make it possible, click here.
Read to Them has also partnered with the Dolly Parton Foundation’s Imagination Library, which helps Richmond families with kids under the age of five build home libraries, by mailing one book a month to your home for free.
You can find additional reading resources, here.
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