Here's Why You Should Try Reading With Your Family This Holiday

by Charlotte Ahlin

Every family is different. You might come from a large, sprawling family of hardcore bookworms. Or you might come from a small, tight-knit family of nonfiction junkies. Maybe you're a big reader, but your identical twin prefers the movie to the book. Perhaps you exclusively read historical biographies, but your mom likes YA novels. Whatever your familial reading taste, picking up a book might just be one of the best things you can do to keep your family functional. Here's what reading books can do for your family.

Of course, not every family is big on sitting down to read aloud together, especially when there are no little kids around. Some families might prefer to watch sports, or play a board game, or sit together in polite silence until it's socially acceptable to go to bed. But whether you're reading together or separately, reading can help to ease tensions and improve relationships. Books make readers nicer, more relaxed, and all around better at supporting the people they love.

So here are a few reasons that you should read with your mom, your siblings, your kids, your roommates, your cousin's ex-boyfriend, or whoever else you might consider as a member of your family:


Reading helps you empathize

It's well documented by now that reading helps you to empathize with other people—even the people you're related too. Specifically, people who read a lot of fiction are more likely to understand the emotions of others. And being a member of any family requires a lot of emotional intelligence. Read books so you can better understand how the rest of your family is feeling, and encourage them to read, too, so they'll be nicer to you.


Books give you perspective

Look, if you're the head of your college Marxism Club, and your uncle is a staunch Republican, it's unlikely that reading a single book is going to suddenly make you see eye to eye. But, if you have a hard time understanding where some of your family members are getting their opinions, reading is an excellent way to give context to perspectives different than your own (even if, at the end of the day, your uncle is still way off about trickle down economics).


Books can cross generations

Sometimes, even if you agree with your family about everything from politics to paint color, there are still some pretty major generational divides. If you're sick of hearing about how millennials are ruining the Applebee's franchise, or if you're having a hard time understanding your grandparents' stories about WWII, pick up a book. Literature isn't time travel, but it's the next best thing. Books can educate you on previous generations, or help to bridge the generational divide with stories that people of all ages can relate to.


Reading helps you write

To be a good writer, one must first be a good reader. And writing is a surprisingly big part of communicating with your family these days: from emails to birthday cards to texts, many of us primarily use writing to keep in touch, with a skype session or two thrown in. So use your command of written language to express your feelings about far away loved ones, and to avoid sounding passive aggressive in texts to your mom.


Reading sparks creativity

Books are inspiring. From fantasy epics to show biz memoirs, books are great at crawling into your brain and giving you all sorts of strange new ideas. If you feel like your family is stuck in a rut, add some new reading material to the mix. Reading a novel will help with everything from creativity to memory to visualization, helping you to change up boring routines and remember everyone's birthdays.


Books are a great escape

Yes, books are great for bringing your family together... but even the closest of families needs alone time every once in a while. If a month-long solo vacation is not an option, a good book can provide some much needed me-time without anyone having to leave the house. "Escapist" fiction doesn't have to be a bad thing.


Books can express difficult feelings

Talking to your family about your feelings can be difficult, even if those feelings are positive. Some families struggle to express how much they care. Other families struggle to express their irritation at whoever keeps leaving the freezer open. Whatever your struggle, gifting someone a book, or even just talking about a fictional story, can go a long way towards explaining how you feel without having to get too mushy about it.


Reading can be a tradition

Every family has some kind of tradition, be it a nightly family dinner or a yearly celebration. Reading together, or even just talking about books regularly, can make for a great new tradition (or a great replacement for a tradition that's starting to feel a little... dated). If you're looking to create some better bonding time, try introducing a new book or short story.


Reading is great for connecting with kids

Some of your family members might still be very young, and in need of assistance when it comes to reading books. Reading to small children builds a relationship with them, as well as giving them a boost with vocab and speech skills. Even if the kids in your family are older, you can still build strong connections by chatting with them about the books they like to read, recommending books to them, or taking them up on their book recommendations. Plus, no one is ever too old to have a book read to them.


Books can start conversations

Communication is key for any family, and books are pretty great conversation starters. Whether you need to broach a difficult subject or just find some common ground to connect on, try picking up a good book. Reading with your family from an early age boosts confidence, facilitates conversation, and deepens bonds. So read everything you can, and keep nagging your family to read more, too.