A question I receive often from readers when they see our yearly book list is, “How do you get your children interested in sitting and listening to read-alouds?”
Since my husband and I are such fans of reading, one thing we’ve hoped since our children have been born is that we’d raise children who loves reading, too. With this in mind, here are some things we’ve done:
Start With Picture Books
Don’t jump straight into chapter books. That’s akin to asking your six-year-old to skip elementary math and leap right into algebra.
You have to slowly work up to chapter books. Start with picture books — reading just a little more each day to help your children’s attention span to grow over time.
Gradually Introduce Chapter Books
After you’re reading your children a steady diet of picture books, gradually introduce some short chapter books. Look for chapter books that have pictures at least every few pages and that have chapters no longer than a few pages. (The Little House chapter books and The Courage of Sarah Noble are two short chapter books I read with Silas this year.)
As your children become more engaged, increase your reading time and up the reading level of books. Eventually, you’ll probably find that you children want you to read for longer than you have time to do so!
Become Best Friends With the Library
I’m a champion of local libraries as they can provide a steady stream of great book options — all for free! For book ideas, I consult book lists from our My Father’s World curriculum, as well as from places like Honey for a Child’s Heart, Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Read For the Heart, and Educating the Whole-Hearted Child.
What I love about the library is that I can check out literally dozens of books each week and then go through them to decide which ones will be best to read. If I bring some books home that don’t end up being a good fit, I can easily return them — without any guilt because they were free!
Help your children learn to love the library, too, by regularly bringing them with you to the library and helping them find good books to check out.
Enthusiasm is contagious. If you’re excited about a book, your children usually will pick up on your excitement and join in.
When we’re getting ready to start a new read-aloud, I usually preface it by telling my children why I’m looking forward to reading it, giving them a little teaser as to what it’s about (this is often just reading the back of the book — which usually has some good teaser material on it), and why I think they’ll enjoy hearing me read it. After my little pep talk about the book, my kids are usually begging me to hurry up and start the book already. 🙂
Choose Books That Will Interest Your Child
Do you like to read books that are boring and on topics that don’t interest you? I’m guessing you don’t! So why would you expect your children to get excited about listening to books on topics that aren’t their cup of tea?
I love to choose books for my children that I think they will really love. For instance, my children are really into books that involve mystery and adventure. So books like Snow Treasure, Spiderweb for Two, and Mrs. Frisby & The Rats of Nimh are ones they have lapped up.
Some of our other favorites have been The Little House books, All-of-a-Kind Family, The Cricket in Times Square, James and the Giant Peach, A Bear Called Paddington, Wonder, The Golden Goblet, Johnny Tremain, and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch.
It is so fun to read together when you’re all engaged and completely interested in the topic and storyline. Plus, there’s nothing better than getting to the end of a chapter and having everyone begging, “Please, please, just one more chapter!”
Make Reading Time Fun
Want to make reading time even more fun? Get a little creative in what it looks like every day.
Maybe some days you read outside on a blanket spread out over the grass. Or, you all head out to the sandbox and you read while your children play in the sand.
How about making some hot cocoa and snuggling under a blanket? For a really special memory, set up your tent in the backyard (or create one in your basement with blankets!) and huddle in together and read with a flashlight.
Don’t Expect Your Children to Sit Perfectly Still
Speaking of making reading time fun, one of the biggest things we’ve done is to not expect our children to sit still and just listen. Here’s what I wrote in my post last year with tips on reading aloud to your children:
While I know some people expect that read-aloud time means everyone sits with their hands in their lap while mom reads, that’s not at all what happens at our house. In fact, I’ve found that often my children listen better when their hands are busy.
So I encourage my children to play with Legos, or draw, or color, or do some other quiet activity while I’m reading. They seem to enjoy it a lot more — and the time flies!
We also often read as part of our meal times. It’s a great way to get in a few pages or a few chapters — while your children’s hands and mouths are busy eating!
Engage Your Children
When you’re reading, stop and ask questions along the way. “Why do you think they did that?” “Was that a good response or a poor response?” “What would you do if you were in that situation?”
Get your children’s minds turning and their creativity flowing. Some of our best discussions have come as a result of a book we’re reading.
Also, take time to answer their questions. It can get tiring to continually be answering question after question. But if you’re willing to take the time to listen and really respond to what your child is asking, they’ll not only learn a lot, but you’ll probably be blessed by some of the conversations this leads to.
As you’re reading, stop and locate where a country, state, and/or city is that the book mentions. My children have learned so much geography just from this simple activity.
If you encounter words that they are unfamiliar with, I love what my friend Sally Clarkson told me that she would do with her children. She said she’d stop, explain what the word meant, and then have each of her children use that word in a sentence. Talk about a great hands-on way to increase your vocabulary!
Don’t Be Afraid to Stop a Book If It’s Not Working
I wanted to end with this encouragement: if a book just isn’t working, don’t feel like you have to keep slogging through it. There are plenty of excellent books out there that there’s no need to waste time on books you just aren’t enjoying at all.
Give yourself grace, chuck your guilt, and move on to a better book!
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Looking for a fun way to encourage and motivate your kids to read more?
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What are your best tips and suggestions for enjoying read-alouds? What are your family’s favorite read-alouds? I’d love to hear!