The Words & Works of Kendra Andrus


The occasional musings of the author that don't turn into children's books.

10 Ways to Read to Your Kids

You might think that you don't have time for one more thing. How can you incorporate reading to and with your children in an already overflowing schedule? Here are some tips that I have learned:

1. Read to them during a mealtime. I typically do not actually eat lunch or even dinner with my kids. I'd rather eat later, uninterrupted and in peace. Plus, during a meal, there is too much to do: get someone more food or drink, clean up a spill, coax a 2-year-old to eat, spoon-feed the baby, remind children to use their manners, micromanage the noise, break up the occasional fight, confiscate the toys, etc. I have found that when I pull out the chapter book we are working our way through or even a good picture book (new ones from the library work great for this), I have not only a captive audience, but I also achieve a quieter and more successful mealtime!

2. Create a "Bed Routine." Many parents read a book or a chapter to their kids as part of a bedtime routine. This is a great strategy, for sure. However, I have found that I am depleted and anxious at the end of the day. And with 6 kids of different ages and in different rooms, there is no easy way to make this happen. And we never seem to start early enough! So, we have instead instigated the special time of reading in bed with Mommy (in my bed) on Saturday mornings and on two evenings a week. (We basically parceled out the entire week with evening activities: Sunday is game/puzzle night, Monday is read night, Tuesday is movie night with Daddy while Mommy goes out to Bible Study, Wednesday is bath night, Thursday is read night, Friday is family movie night, and Saturday is bath night.) The kids like the predictable schedule. They own it; they won't let us forget or deviate from it. They make sure we trade nights or make up for nights when our schedule gets out of wack due to special circumstances or events. This is a way to ensure that you are reading aloud to your kids 2-3 times a week.

3. Read to them during chores. This is totally old-school. Lectors used to read aloud to factory workers as they did their menial tasks all day long. It helped pass the time as the work got done. If you have kids who regularly have to wash the dishes or clean the playroom or fold the laundry, this is a perfect time to read to them. Their minds will be focused on listening to the story and it will make the chore more enjoyable and hopefully get done more quickly without as much complaining, dawdling, or interruption! 

4. Read to them during calm activities. Basically, whenever you have a child sitting relatively still and doing an activity that does not require talking, you could be reading to them. Some examples are: while they are soaking in a bath, while they are doing puzzles, while they are swinging, while they are coloring.

5. Read to them in the car. Unless you get car-sick. And of course, as long as you are a passenger too! This is great for passing time on long car trips, but you'd be amazed at how quickly you can get through a novel in 15 minute chunks. Utilize your weekly family trip to and from church or to and from a friend/relative's house to read to your kids! I guarantee that it will make the "she's touching me" and "his humming is annoying me" complaints fade away.

6. Make it a special event. Create an occasional special reading event. The novelty of it, the specialness, and the way you sell it and hype it up will all contribute to it's success. I bet it will also create lasting memories that your kids will always cherish. Have a Reading Picnic in the backyard for lunch or even dinner. Throw a Reading Tea Party in the middle of the afternoon. Go on a Book Hike where you explore in the woods and find the perfect spot to sit down and read for a while. Read a chapter to your kids in the tree house or just perched up in a tree that you can all climb. Build a fort, turn the lights out, and read huddled inside it with a flashlight. Use your imagination - the sky's the limit on this one. 

7. Take turns reading to each other. Once you have strong, independant readers, don't stop reading with them and to them! It is great when kids can read to themselves, all by themselves, but don't forego the communal experience of books - it is still very important and quite fun. Pass around a book together, each person reads one page aloud. Extra points can be awarded to the best hand-off. A seamless mid-sentence pass can be an engaging challenge.

8. Make reading together interactive. Get the kids acting out the story as you read. Create hand signals or motions to do for repetitive words or for when there is a word that a child does not know the meaning of. Have sound-effects that do similar things. For instance, honk your nose when you hear a word you don't understand - then pause and define the word for them. Or clap your hands once every time you hear the name Dick and twice for every time you hear the word Jane. Put your hands on your cheeks and say "oh no!" every time you hear "King Bidgood's in the bathtub and he won't get out!" Stand up, twirl around, and sit down every time I turn the page. Lie down when the characters are lying down, close your eyes to imagine what something looks like, gasp or scream when a character does. You get the gist.

9. Audio Books! Seriously, our voices need a break sometimes. And often we simply need to be cooking dinner or doing something else necessary and important. There is NO SHAME in pressing play on an audio book. These can be utilized at home or in the car! Amazon regularly has great deals on classic novels and children's novels - you can snag them for a dollar or two if you pay attention. Libravox has them for free, although each chapter is read by a different person so that can be weird. But if you are only listening to one chapter at a time, I have found it to not be a problem. I mean, free is free!

10. SAY YES! So, this one is a big one for me. Challenge yourself to say yes one more time a day. I get requests often from an individual child to read a particular book to them. Even though it would probably only take 5-10 minutes, I find myself saying no. No, I'm doing something else, no I'm just too tired, no I don't want to right now. I have been convicted with the truth that I am letting precious growth time slip away - time that my connection with my child can grow and time that their little minds and hearts can grow. Reading is intimate and powerful for all involved! It is okay to say no. But let's challenge ourselves to say yes instead of no at least once a day!

I hope these helped you think of ways that you too can find the time and space to read more to your children. A culture of books and reading in your home is one of the most beautiful and empowering things you can create!

Leave me a comment and share with us your ideas of how to read more with your children.

Kendra Andrus