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Family Ritual: Reading with the Wilsons

For Grammy-winning singer Ciara and her husband, Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, the best moment of the day comes at the end of it, when bedtime reading starts.

wilson family portrait
Russell and Ciara with book lovers Future (7), Sienna (4), and Win (1).

Reading is Fundamental

“I grew up with parents who read to me all the time. They believed in the importance of education and viewed reading as a direct source of growth,” says star Denver Broncos (and former Seattle Seahawks) quarterback Russell Wilson. “One of the biggest traditions they passed down is reading before bed—and it’s something Ciara and I have prioritized with our own kids. It’s a great opportunity for us to bond and grow as a family.”

“I wasn’t necessarily read to as routinely growing up, but I remember moments of my dad reading to me before bed, and it was something I looked forward to,” says recording artist Ciara, who married Wilson in 2016. “We read to Future, 7, and Sienna, 4, every night before bed, and baby Win has story time before naps and at bedtime. We take turns reading to each child in their room so they have one-on-one time with us. We’re both expressive readers! It’s always so cute when Russ pulls out his dramatic reading skills. We love making it a fun experience.

“Bedtime reading is a bonding moment, and I know it helps settle them for sleep. But what I value about it most is that it inspires them to expand their imaginations. I love the experience of watching my kids’ curiosity and imagination working in real time. We all live busy lives, so it’s important to take those quiet moments. We’re really big on sticking to our nightly routine so things feel consistent for the kids.”

Familiar Faves

“Growing up, I loved the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey and anything by Dr. Seuss—and our kids love these books, too, and read them over and over,” says Russell. “Some of my favorites were Clifford the Big Red Dog, and I loved Dr. Seuss, too,” says Ciara. “Right now, Sienna loves princess books and Little Red Riding Hood, and Future likes all kinds of superhero books and reading the Bible. As a family, we love the 5 Minute Story series because kids have short attention spans and it keeps them interested.”

Making It a Mission

“Reading is a huge part of the development of the mind and brain. It creates imagination and allows our kids to dream in ways they may not otherwise,” says Russell. “That’s a big reason Ciara and I founded the Why Not You Foundation (WNYF) in 2014, to empower youth to live and lead with the attitude that you can do anything you see. We’re working to fight poverty through education and supporting access to equal education opportunities, children’s health, and food-security initiatives. In September 2021, we celebrated the grand opening of the Why Not You Academy, a free charter public high school for underserved students just south of Seattle, and we welcomed our inaugural class of over 100 students.”

“Bedtime reading is a bonding moment, and I know it helps settle them for sleep. But what I value about it most is that it inspires them to expand their imaginations.”

Future and Sienna hugging portrait
Future and little sis Sienna hug it out.

Dreaming Big

“With our picture book, Why Not You?, we hope to uplift young people of color to embrace reading and encourage them to pursue their wildest dreams and believe in themselves. Whether it’s becoming a football player or a pop star or the president or a scientist, why not you?” says Russell.

“From a young age, we were both fortunate to have families that encouraged us to dream big; they reminded us that anything is possible through hard work and faith,” says Ciara. “Russell’s father always said to him, ‘Why not you?’ With our book, we hope to encourage kids to not only read, but pursue their dreams with that same attitude. We continue to dream big and want to encourage others, not just kids, to keep dreaming and never give up on their goals. All you need is one person to believe, and that person is you!”

Read On

why not you? book cover

Helping Kids One Story at a Time

What happens when a Grammy-winning pop star and a Super Bowl–champion quarterback put their heads together and write a children’s story? The answer is Why Not You?, a picture book that inspires young readers to pursue their dreams. Ciara and Russell Wilson know firsthand the value of self-esteem and perseverance—and they’re passing it on with their Why Not You Foundation, dedicated to children’s health, education, and fighting poverty. (They recently raised $2.7 million to help Seattle Children’s Hospital fight pediatric cancer!) Pick up the book and visit whynotyoufdn.org to learn more.

By Sarah Z. Wexler | Photographs by Lacey Land | All family images courtesy of the Wilsons | Book cover courtesy of Random House Children’s Books

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