Making reading-aloud work in your house

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If I am honest, I have to admit that up until recently we didn’t do much reading-aloud in our house. By “reading-aloud” I mean reading longer chapter books to my kids. We often read story books but longer books did not seem to work. I’ve had this weird sense of guilt about it because of all the articles I’ve read that told me why reading-aloud is so great.

But I am here to tell you I have finally figured it out. Right now, we are reading “The Tale of Despereaux.” The story is so interesting that I am no longer to read it until my husband is home. Reading-aloud has become one of my favorite parts of our day.

The main reason I love it so much is that it brings us all together around a common story. It is not uncommon to hear references to whatever book we are reading as the kids are playing, or just in regular conversation.

These stories also tend to spark conversations about so many subjects. We have talked a lot about bravery and doing what we believe is right even when it is scary. We have also talked about empathy and trying to understand where someone else is coming from.

Of course there is academic value to reading-aloud as well, which I am certainly not complaining about.

Maybe reading-aloud is easy in your house, but if it is a struggle like it was for us I have a few tips.

Consider your kids’ ages and attention span

While my oldest child would have been able to engage by listening to a story for a long time at a young age, that is not the case for my 5-year-old son. Only in the past year has he been able to focus for more than 10 minutes at a time. And, here is the thing: That is ok.

Just because you know a parent who can read for 45 minutes while their kids sit and listen attentively doesn’t mean that is what is right for your family. Or it may just mean it will take a few more years to get to that point.

Give them something to do while you read

I remember attending many trainings for work and spending the time doodling on my notes. I typically focus better when my hands are busy. I think that is often the case for my kids as well.

Print out coloring pages; let them draw or build blocks. I know someone who has a specific small bin of toys that she only pulls out for reading time. Read during snack or lunch time when everyone is busy eating.

Try different times of the day

For a few months, we read everyday after lunch, while the kids drew or colored, but I noticed everyone started to get restless at that time. We are now reading at bedtime.  I took a couple bins of toys upstairs so the kids could play while we read.

Judah playing while listening to our currently story.
Judah plays while he listens to the story.

Sometimes when our 2-year-old is grumpy, we put him to bed and then read to the 3 older kids. A little bit of flexibility is key with young kids.

If you are interested in diving into the concept of reading-aloud, there is actually a really great podcast about it. Check it out: The Read-Aloud Revival.

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