A reading-centered life for my kids, that’s my goal. For so many reasons…
- To give them the words that will fill their vocabulary and their writing.
- To encourage them to become lifelong readers.
- To enrich our time together.
I am a believer in reading to them at the highest level they enjoy. And even when they can all read themselves, I’ll keep reading to them as long as they let me. Here are some ways I’ve been trying to carve out more time for reading in our busy lives.
- Have a book-themed play date, birthday party or holiday party. We’ve spent a week or a few days reading books by a particular author, and then had a playdate at the end of the week. Do the normal playdate or party stuff, maybe a craft or game to go along with the book, then while they snack, read to them. We’ve done Angelina Ballerina, Madeline and Fancy Nancy with my daughter. Currently we’re planning a Harry Potter birthday party for my oldest son.
- Family reading time together each day for about 5 or 10 minutes. Gather all your kids together and have a book ready to go. We do this each morning. It’s Mom’s choice of book (since it’s almost always their choice, sometimes there are things I just want to read to them) or we delve into that basket full of library books that we never seem to get through before they’re overdue. Whoever is willing and able to read, reads. Even though the younger ones interrupt a lot, even though that can be quite frustrating for older siblings, we persist. That’s why we keep it short and sweet.
- Individual reading time with mom for each kid every afternoon, 15 to 20 minutes. Kid’s choice of reading material, by themselves with mom, while the other two kids go upstairs and mostly play quietly and separately, to minimize interruptions. My kids don’t nap anymore but they all know what “quiet time” means, to go to a part of the house, by themselves. Little ones often find surprises in their rooms for quiet time (a special toy they haven’t played with in a while, a new library book, a craft they can do themselves).
- Go to book-themed plays. Do you have a little local theatre in your community? How about a high school or university drama department? The cost is so reasonable at these theaters. Sign up for their email lists, look for their flyers at local grocery stores or skim local newspapers or on-line community lists. We get super excited about the play ahead of time, reading the book and doing a few activities. Then my kids greet the characters in the play like they are old friends. It’s so exciting. We’ve seen some wonderful plays like The Snowy Day, Charlotte’s Web, Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse, Frog and Toad, and many more.
- Individual reading at bedtime, no matter what. Most of us already do this, but it can be easy to skip when kids and parents are overtired. I caught myself saying to one of my kids, in a moment of frustration, “Just go to bed. No books tonight.” Then, I thought better of it. Do I want reading at bedtime to be a privilege my child has to earn? No. It’s our special time together. It’s important. I wouldn’t tell them to go to bed without brushing their teeth or using the bathroom.
- Tuesday Tea Time. You can thank Julie at Brave Writer for this one. Each Tuesday, we set a fancy table, with drinks in tea cups, snacks, and a stack of poetry books. Each child picks a poem. If they are willing and able to read it themselves, they can. If not, mom reads. They adore this, even the boys.
- Audio Books. The library is full of them, via cd’s or downloads. Some favorites I’ve added to our collection recently are by Jim Weiss, a master storyteller: American Tall Tales, King Arthur and His Knights, The Three Musketeers / Robin Hood. There are so many more. I’ve met several adults and older teens who listened to Jim Weiss’ stories growing up and they speak of this experience with such fond memories. We play these during quiet time when I’m reading to a sibling, in the car, and at bedtime. I frequently have to tell my oldest child to turn off his stories and go to sleep!
- Read at mealtime and snack times. Instant captive audience!
- Give books as gifts, always. A lot. Books in their Easter baskets, for their birthdays, at Christmas, for Valentine’s Day. Instead of a load of candy, they get some candy, some books.
- Find bargain book opportunities and get your kids excited about them. My kids salivate over a box of books at a garage sale, the shelves at thrift stores and our annual library’s book sale. What I love, too, is that I can always say YES, in these situations, when they ask to buy a pile of books. “Sure, they’re only 25 cents, of course you can have them!”