There's something magical that happens when you open your heart to a really good story. You become invested in fictional characters, their journeys, and their lives. You gain the irreplaceable power to transport yourself from your world to theirs, any time you want to. That power is magnified for young children, who are just starting to make sense of their own surroundings only to discover that they can visit other times, other lands, and other families — without ever leaving home!
Civil Service Commission worker Ashanti knows a thing or two about the transformative power of reading, and that's why it's her favorite way to bond with her daughter, 6-year-old Alana. Growing up in a military family, Ashanti was raised in a house where the rule was "books before toys." Her mother brought home the American Girl book series, saying if Ashanti read them all that she'd be allowed to get a doll of her own. She went on to read the books, get her own Addy doll, and at the same time develop a lifelong love of reading that she shares with her little lady today.
As the ultimate bonding tool, the two have created a mother-daughter book club. They find stories of strong female characters and positive themes, then spend time together reading, discussing, and exploring possible outcomes. Currently they're tackling the American Girl book series, and by doing so, Ashanti and Alana are connecting over something they both get excited about.
Hoping to build a similar connection over reading with your own child? Keep reading to learn Ashanti's expert advice.
Share The Love
A love of reading is a love that grows over time. Talk to your little ones about how, when, and where your relationship with books began! Not only will they be interested in your experience, but they’ll also start to appreciate their own relationship with reading. For Ashanti, there was always an emphasis on reading and education in her household growing up — her grandmother was a retired school teacher, and her mother always had a book in hand.
“I remember hearing my mother on the phone with her girlfriends saying, ‘Oh, did you read this new book?’ or ‘Did you hear that this book is coming out?’" Ashanti tells Romper. "I think that’s what jumpstarted my love for reading. And as I got older, my mom made sure I had a library card and always took me to get books. I grew to love it — and I try to do the same for my daughter."
Make Time Every Day
Life gets busy, so it’s important to carve out dedicated time for reading, just like you’d make time for anything else. Work it into your routine and, much like brushing your teeth before bed, make it a non-negotiable — even on the busiest days. Ashanti and Alana have a daily date just before bedtime to connect over whatever they’re reading that day.
“No matter how hectic our day is, I make sure those minutes right before bed are super special. So we’ll sit, we’ll talk, we'll read. I make an effort every single day to take those few minutes, shut the rest of the world out, and just have that time together.”
Make It A Mother-Daughter Thing
Ashanti emphasizes that reading is best shared with someone you love. Inspired by positive memories of a book club that her mom hosted when she was young, she came up with the idea to start a mother-daughter book club with Alana.
Some of their best mother-daughter discussions have been sparked by reading the American Girl books together, and as it turns out, Ashanti has found Alana’s perspective to be both exciting and enlightening.
“The thing I’ve learned the most is that even though Alana's so young, she has such a great perspective, and she'll see things in a completely different way than I see them. It’s really refreshing to have that little kid perspective when it comes to a book.”
Remember: Strong Characters Build Strong Kids
As parents, we are on a constant quest to shape and strengthen our children into the best versions of themselves. For Ashanti, that means choosing books featuring characters that will inspire and empower her daughter.
“I’ve always wanted Alana to be sure of herself and know that she’s capable of anything. When we read and play with her American Girl dolls, one’s a doctor, one’s a teacher, and we push those mindsets. And it helps! Because now when I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up, some days she says, ‘I want to be a pediatrician’ and some days it's, ‘I want to be a chef.’ I love that reading about female role models helps build strong character in her.”
When you have the right tools — like books, inspiring female protagonists, and dedicated time in your schedule — bonding with your daughter becomes as easy as it is meaningful.
This post is sponsored by American Girl.
Photographer: Erin Foster; Makeup Artist: Dre Brown; Hair Stylist: Sammy LaCombe; Art Director: Julie Vaccaro; Producer: Kat Fry; Editor: Suzanne McKenzie