Reading Aloud: How does YOUR family make it happen?

In his latter years Grandpa Wegener used to fall asleep while he was reading to the kids. They'd watch him for a while, giggle a bit, and then slip off to do something else for a few minutes. This winter I've started having the same problem! Yikes! I'm either getting really old or really tired! I've been blaming it on the woodstove, but I don't know...

Afternoon read aloud time has been a staple in our home since, well, probably pretty much “forever.” It started as a precursor to naps and morphed into a regular part of school. I used to hold two post-lunch reading sessions – one with picture books for the littlest people before putting them to bed followed by another period reading chapter books to the kids up through about junior high. Now I'm down to having an audience of just two boys, 4th and 7th grade, so my daily read aloud sessions are numbered. (Hurrah for visits from grandchildren to look forward to!)

Family reading is one of my favorite times of the day. It's kind of like recess for me and for the kids. We get to sit down for half an hour, maybe knit a little bit (me), and enjoy a good tale together.

I've written before about WHY we love reading together as a family. But I haven't written about HOW to make it happen. When a friend wrote not long ago asking for advice in making family reading actually happen, I thought that would be an easy post to write. Actually not. At least not without making you feel as if you had been sitting in front of my woodstove right after lunch.  ZZZZZZzzzzzz...

But here are some basic tips:

1. Pick a time of day you can consistently hit at least three times a week for 15-30 minutes. We find a slot during our school day works better than evenings because those get filled with other things. 

2. Find some great books which are fun to read aloud. The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis), Just So Stories (Kipling), or Mr. Popper's Penguins (Atwater) are good ones to start with.

3. Vary your reading material to include different genres from poetry to biography, historical fiction to mysteries.  Here are some read alouds particularly suited for boys we've enjoyed.

4. Stop and talk about what you are reading periodically! Books yield those "teachable moments" everyone tells you to watch for and are so hard to find.

5. Let your children work quietly with their hands while you read. In fact, if you have them do their handwriting practice, map making, or something else relatively mindless, you can get double duty from this time. Young children might work on puzzles or play with Legos. Some of my sons make models, all my daughters knit, others have drawn, and some have worked on a drafting program. I do best if I can knit while I'm reading aloud.  

(Many people really do listen best when their hands are working. Heather Ordover, a former English teacher and host of the CraftKnit podcast, is currently writing a blogged book called Cognitive Anchoring: Grounding Your Mind so Your Thoughts Can Run Free. Her interest in knitting, crocheting, and doodling as calming activities grew after she found knitting and crocheting to be hugely helpful for her traumatized high school English students weeks after they were evacuated from their Manhattan school on 9/11.  You can read her story here.)

6. Audio books from the library or Librivox (free recordings of public domain books read by volunteers) make a good substitute for times when a parent is unable to read to children.

So here's my question for you: If your family enjoys reading together, how do you make it happen?


Peter Locke said…
My children are ages 7 weeks, 2, 4, & 6. So the real question is, how can we sit so they can all see the pictures?! Right now I'm holding the baby while another holds the book. Two on either arm of the recliner with another standing on a chair behind me. Our favorite books lately are the Grandma's Attic books by Arlene Richardson. Our favorite library find last week was "Charlotte Avery of Isle Royale" by Rebecca Curtis.
Thanks for the encouragement :)
Kimberly Locke
Anne said…
We've enjoyed the Grandma Attic books, too. I've not read Charlotte Avery of Isle Royale, but it sounds lovely from the Amazon description!

Oh - I miss those days of squeezing many little one in close to see the pictures! Our favorite place to read is a large couch, which can hold a surprising number of children if they really want to see. Otherwise, I let them sprawl wherever, and just pause periodically to show illustrations.
We usually read before bedtime, but that has the disadvantage of making bedtime rather late because it's just so hard to stop.

Do you knit and read aloud concurrently? I'm mystified as to how that would be possible! I found knitting to be a great means of staying awake while my beginning reader read aloud to me.
Anne said…

Yes, I'm so compulsive, I do knit while I read. Uncomplicated projects like dish cloths work better than something intricate. Reading from a Kindle is easier than holding a book and trying to pin the pages open with a leg. I've tried hand quilting, but that wasn't as successful. :)

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