We read to our kids when they were young, that’s a no-brainer. Oral language is the foundation of all language, including reading and writing, and kids who are read to early on develop better and deeper language skills. The research is pretty clear on that. And you should do it way past the time they can read themselves.

The first Harry Potter book came out when my son was two and the last one when he was 12, just perfect timing. We read a lot of different books with all three kids, but Harry Potter was this golden thread for all three.

After the books each night was songs. My mom sang me to sleep when I was little, and I loved it. So each of my kids got two songs a night. In the course of about 10 years, that’s nearly 20,000 bedtime songs sung in this house. Some were songs my mother sang to me, which gave the kids some family history, and some were just great songs I thought my kids ought to know. Stardust, Yesterday, Danny Boy, Lion Sleeps, Cat’s Cradle, Blackbird, Imagine. Everything’s All Right (from Jesus Christ Superstar), Happy Together, The Galaxy Song, Our Love is Here to Stay.

Then one night, when my girls were five and eight, an old friend floated into my head—and I began to sing:

Ground Control to Major Tom…
Ground Control to Major Tom…
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on…

“What…in…the…world?!” Erin’s head was off the pillow. I could feel the puzzled glare cutting through the dark.

(10) Ground Control (9) to Major Tom (8)…(7)
(6) Commencing countdown, engines on…(3)
(2) Check ignition, and may God’s love be with you…

“This is weird,” said Delaney.

“This is TOTALLY weird,” said Erin, leaning forward on her elbow.

“This is…”


Listen to the full episode, with music

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Dale McGowan is chief content officer of OnlySky, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies, and founder of Foundation Beyond Belief (now GO Humanity). He holds a...