Last week, I gave you a little information about the importance of reading aloud with children— of all ages. But believe me, I know that actually reading aloud to children isn’t always easy! So, today I’m sharing a few practical tips to make reading aloud to your children a little easier and, therefore, a little more fun for everyone involved!
Do you ever find yourself struggling to find time to read to your children? Do you have a dream, a vision, of what that read aloud time “should” look like, but find that this time falls short of your ideal? Do you worry about whether or not your children are actually listening because it seems like they’re playing instead? If your answer to any of those is “yes,” or if you think it might be “yes” sometime in the future, then read ahead!
Some things you might consider to make read-aloud time easier:
** Read aloud during mealtime. Meals are times when your children are usually a captive audience for at least 5 minutes, maybe much longer. Take advantage! While I do try to reserve dinner time for family time, I am often reading to my girls during breakfast, lunch, or snacks. In fact, I find that they will usually eat better meals when they’re listening to stories, because they want to stay at the table to hear more!
** Read in the bathroom. Yes, we have a basket of books that sits on the back of the girls’ toilet. It got a LOT of use when each girl learned to use the toilet… But we’ll also read sometimes while they’re taking a bath, or quite honestly, when one of them just wants company!
** Utilize audiobooks! Yes, you lose an aspect of connection by not being the person reading the story… but if you listen with your children (like in the car…), then you can still connect as you experience the story together! We listen to audiobooks the majority of the time either or both girls are in the car. At first, I wasn’t sure how much they were listening or remembering, but even my 3-year-old surprises me with her oral comprehension and the vocabulary she picks up through these. Additionally, our 5.5-year-old listens to audiobooks every time she has a quiet time. She’d stay in her room for hours, coloring and listening to stories, if we didn’t have places to go!
** Read aloud, or play audiobooks, while your children are playing with blocks, building with legos, cooking in their play kitchens, coloring, etc… When we’re just playing in our house (and it’s something quiet that will allow for a story in the background), our oldest will often ask to listen to an audiobook.
** Be prepared to abandon books from time to time. If you’re trying to read a book to a child, and he’s not enjoying it, then don’t push it. Stop reading that book and let him choose the next one. Yes, it may not be one you’d pick and maybe you won’t enjoy it as much, but we’re trying to grow readers here.
** Similarly, watch your child for cues regarding what she’s ready to listen to, and be aware of trying to jump into chapter books or more complex books before she is ready. We tried to start chapter books at least 5 times with our oldest before she was interested in continuing the story again the next night. We would just put them away and try again about a month later. Eventually it clicked, and boy was she proud when she and my husband got to the end of that first chapter book (it was Charlotte’s Web, in case you were curious!).
** And, be okay skipping or abandoning read-aloud sessions when they’re not working. There are definitely nights when we don’t read aloud before bedtime, because we’ve lost track of time, the girls are too tired, or they’ve chosen to play an extra 5-minutes instead. There are also other times when we start stories but stop in the middle of them, or even just a few pages into them, because the audience is just not in the mood to listen. It happens!
** Change up the scene or the schedule! Kiddos getting too big to sit on your lap in the comfy chair? Try the couch! Does one or both of you tend to fall asleep when reading together before bed? Try reading immediately after dinner instead, before bath or cleaning up or whatever else happens in your house at night. Maybe your child takes a while to wake up and get going in the morning, but loves that extra snuggle. Read to him then! Be flexible and creative and see what happens.
Next week, I’ll have more ideas for you of things children can do while they listen to stories, many of which are proven to actually help their listening comprehension, focus, and attention! And after that, I’m planning to give you my favorite tips for starting and using audiobooks easily.
Comment below with any questions you’d love some help with, and share any ideas you have that may make read-aloud time more pleasant for others!