How do you picture the perfect family read-aloud time?
Warm drink and a blazing fire with contented children curled up on the couch?
In a beautiful meadow with picnic blankets and quiet kids weaving daisy chains while they listen?
Well, I’ve got bad news for you.
Those perfect moments are just a figment of your imagination.
The reality is, most read aloud times look more like…
Kids constantly moving around (or even wrestling)…
Mom not knowing how to pronounce a word…
Toddler or puppy eating something they shouldn’t…
Getting up 84 times to refill a child’s drink…
You get the picture.
Most people give up on reading aloud to their kids because it’s a hassle and it seems like no one is listening.
But most of us are convinced that reading aloud to our children is an incredibly valuable way to:
- Increase our kid’s intellect
- Grow their compassion
- Solidify our relationships with them
So how do we get from point A (total mayhem) to point B (brain building, heart growing, family bonding)?
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First, remind yourself that everyone deals with interruptions during read-aloud time. Those gorgeous images you see on Instagram are silent and still, but those families reading aloud, usually aren’t.
Having to stick a bookmark at your place while you change a diaper doesn’t have to mean that read aloud time is a failure or that it has to even be over for the day.
Start with Picture Books then Add Variety
Start reading to your kids as infants. Seriously! You want them to associate books with happy bonding time with mom or dad.
Kids way older than that? It’s never too late to get your kids to love reading. Even if they’re in upper grade school, lure them in with a fantastic picture book, especially something funny like The Book Without Any Pictures.
There’s something about picture books that are just so inviting, non-threatening, and engaging. And they TOTALLY count for read aloud time if you pick high quality living picture books!
After your kids are hooked on picture books, introduce chapter books with plenty of pictures. E. B. White, Roald Dahl, and Beverly Cleary are just a handful of fantastic book series with lots of fun pictures to ease your kids into the realm of imaging more.
But here’s the thing, don’t drop the picture books! Even when your kids are off reading their own novels, throw your kids the occasional curve ball with a picture book. There are so many great ones out there about history, science, and real humanity!
Have a More than One Book Going at a Time
In our family, we always have multiple books going.
Usually Dad is reading something to the boys at bedtime. I have an official “school” read aloud and one “fun” read aloud. We also always have an audiobook going in the car. (Side note, those audiobooks totally count and I’m SHOCKED how many books we blast through even without going on a long distance trip.) My boys also listen to an audiobook all by themselves during their “quiet hour”. I like that they have a book all to themselves that they narrate back to me when its all done (not each day, just at the very end of the book).
Yup, at least five read alouds at once, not counting all our school reads!
But here’s the thing, we don’t spend equal amounts of time on each one.
One book will start to get extra exciting, and we’ll push the others aside or slow down with them so we can spend more time on the thrilling one.
But once one ends, we’re already into a couple others. That way we can see which book catches on. If we only had one read aloud and it turned out to be a dud, we lose our momentum and usually have a long lull before everyone was excited to read something new.
Having multiple books going at the same time also helps ensure everyone has a something to enjoy in an appropriate age range or genre.
Just Add Food
I’m a boy mom. I’ve learned that food is a universal motivator and it also keeps hands busy and mouths FULL! It’s amazing how a “fancy looking” snack can elevate the whole experience the whole read aloud experience.
It doesn’t have to be homemade or gourmet. Sliced fruit and some crackers look like a feast when they’re spread on a pretty plate and you light a candle!
When I’m the only adult and all three boys are up, I don’t even attempt a read aloud without adding food!
Let Them MOVE
This might seem crazy, but kids listen BETTER when they are moving and fidgeting! The brain NEEDS sensory input through touch and movement. You don’t want your child spending all their brain cells trying to hold perfectly still.
Instead, let them color or build Lego or swing outside. You’ll be shocked how much better they comprehend and remember when they’re allowed to fidget and move (within reason, drum solos probably won’t work).
P.S. Also, audiobooks can help kids to get in the habit of listening to books being read aloud. If you’re getting frustrated with interruptions (or are starting to go hoarse) give it a try. ( Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks) I wouldn’t suggest trading reading aloud yourself for only listening to audiobooks, but it is a useful tool. My kids get into the voice actors who can give each character a unique voice in a way I can’t.
It Adds Up
Folks, I have three boys, 7, 5, and 2 1/2. It’s a unicorn kinda day if we get through a full chapter in one “sitting” (see above). Five to ten minutes is probably our average read aloud session.
Sometimes it seems like we will NEVER finish a book at our tortoise rate. But you know what? Those minutes add up because reading aloud is a habit in our family!
Want more inspiration to light the read aloud fire in you??
I’ve got a homeschool mom crush on Sarah Mackenzie and her podcast “Read Aloud Revival”. She’s never recommended a dud and can get me all pumped up about the power of story!
And her book is pretty fantastic too! My favorite part is the ten questions you can ask your kid about ANY book!
So tell me, what have you been reading to your kids lately? Share your recommendations in the comments!