Bedtime in our house used to be a bit stressful. With three children in one bedroom, there was always someone coming out to get a drink, go to the bathroom, inform us of what someone else was doing, etc, etc. Some nights it would be an hour and a half later before they actually fell asleep! But that all changed when we started reading. Now everyone but Caspian is fast asleep before I leave the room! Here is how read alouds work in our house- each child gets to pick a book they want me to read to them. I try to guide them in what to choose based on recommendations in the Read Aloud Handbook or books I remember enjoying when I was their age. We start with the youngest in the room (Moose) and read his book, which is usually a picture book. Then we read Aurora’s book, and finally Caspian’s book. This reading time typically takes about an hour, but it sure beats putting the kids back in their room dozens of times! Our time spent reading is something the kids have really enjoyed, and even if we get home late it is impossible to convince them to take a night off reading! Every night when I am done reading, Caspian asks “what is the next chapter called?”, and anxiously anticipates what is coming next. It is really a joy to see how much they get out of our reading time!
All of our time spent reading I see as an investment in their education. Since we started our evening reading, I have noticed that getting the children to read their own books during the day is a lot easier. They just seem to enjoy reading more than they used to. Me reading to them is also giving them the skills to read aloud themselves. I love to listen as one of the older children read Moose or Little Bear a book! They have great voice inflection, they know when to pause and stop, and are full of expression. Something must be working! The kids also have a much better attention span when it comes to their regular school work. There were times last year when I wondered if they were listening to a word I was saying, but now their listening skills have greatly improved. Even Moose and Little Bear are learning to become good listeners.
If you are interested in reading more to your children but don’t know how to get started, I’ll let you know what worked for us. First of all, start small. Start with picture books with great illustrations on a topic that interests your children. Just increase the time you are reading by a few minutes a day. Slowly work your way up to longer picture books, and then to chapter books. There are some great illustrations in some chapter books too. Again, find books that are highly interesting to your children. When we first started, we chose some books that the children had seen movies of and therefore already knew the basic story. They became “story detectives” on a hunt to find what the differences between the book and the movie were. The kids did a great job and I was really impressed with the details they picked up. Now we read the book before we see the movie, but the opposite worked to get us going with reading.
Hopefully your family can benefit from reading aloud as much as our family has. It has become our favorite time of the day! After all of the chaos that can take place during the day it is so nice to have this time to relax, be quiet, and just enjoy a good book. I would really encourage you to read the Read Aloud Handbook and get started with a habit that is one of the best memories your children will have! You have my promise that you will not regret a single minute!