Over the last couple of years, whenever I’ve mentioned having read aloud time with my kids (ages 4, 3, 21 months, and 4 months), I’ve often gotten lots of questions. What do you read? Do they understand it? How do you get them to sit still? How long do you read at a time?
What do I read?
About a year ago I started reading chapter books to my boys. We still read story books a lot, but added this time (usually everyday) as a part of our school lessons to increase vocabulary, learn new things, and just to encourage a love for reading beyond storybooks. We started with a simple book from their collection. Each chapter was basically a story in itself but about the same characters. Then we moved on to a book from the Boxcar Children series. Then sharks and a couple of other short fiction chapter books. Now we are about to finish Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Do they understand it?
Yes and no. The younger two definitely don’t understand much, but they are seeing how much everyone else enjoys reading! I choose books that are simple enough that they understand the general story and cover topics I think they will enjoy. (Farmer Boy has been a huge hit!) One of the things I love about reading these stories to my kids is how much they (and I!) learn about things other than reading. Some days they ask lots of questions. Sometimes we have to stop and discuss the meanings of words or Google something on my phone for pictures, videos, or just a better explanation. Last week we watched YouTube videos on sheep shearing. It’s a fun learning time.
How do you get them to sit still?
When we first started read aloud time, I didn’t. I would (and still do sometimes, especially for the youngest) get out Legos or blocks or crayons and coloring books and paper. Kids often learn better when they’re moving in some way. And honestly, how many three year olds are going to sit quietly for 15 minutes and concentrate on hearing a book with no pictures? Now my four year old will gladly sit beside us, listening to find out what happens next. (Seeing a love for reading grow makes me excited. 🙂 That’s my goal!) If I finish my breakfast or lunch before the kids, I’ll often pick up our book and read a little until they finish eating and are ready to play. Even then, I sometimes let the younger ones get down and play around the table while I finish reading the chapter to the 4 year old. Just because they’re moving around doesn’t mean they aren’t hearing or learning anything! Don’t stress over a two year old not wanting to sit still for a lengthy story.
Side note: We usually also read a short devotional and/or a chapter from Proverbs at breakfast and talk a bit about them.
How long do you read at a time?
As long as time, our routine, their attention spans, household duties, and the baby allow! Usually we read one, and maybe a half, at a time if we are reading during the day, and one chapter if we are reading at bedtime. When we first started, I often only read a page or two. It has increased as their interest and attention spans increased. It is not meant to be a boring lesson or a stressful thing for any of us. Mainly, the goal is to have fun learning and grow a love for reading in my kids!
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