How to Build Bonds with Story Time
The power of a read-aloud family
Reading aloud is the closest thing to “happy family insurance”.
It builds an intimate bond of shared language, experience, and analogy.
It defines family life and creates belonging.
It heals and educates through empathy and discussion.
It inspires a love of books as children associate reading with pleasure.
All of this for the low, low cost of 30 minutes a day.
Let’s Get Practical
Reading aloud is a forever kind of thing. It becomes part of the fiber of your family life.
We still love to read aloud, and all of my kids are well past the emerging reader stage.
My married daughters read aloud with their husbands.
Melissa Taylor writes about The Importance of Reading Aloud to Big Kids
Verbal riches, vocabulary, reading skills
One of my richest memories of childhood is cuddling with my small children first thing in the morning to read a good book. They would drag their lovey blankets in and burrow under the covers. It was a gentle and pleasant way to start the day.
The time and place may change over the years. As they get older, it gets trickier to find a time that works for everyone.
Her first summer home from college, my oldest daughter asked if we could read a book over the vacation. Be still my heart!
And if good memories are not enough, read aloud has a practical side.
Studies show that children that are read to are better readers themselves. They also sport a larger vocabulary. Reading skills and vocabulary are foundational to all other areas of academics.
There are a few other advantages to reading aloud, even after your children can read to themselves.
You can choose books that the entire family will love, but that are not quite at your child’s reading level.
Many children go through a stage of reading the same genre, series or author. In the pre-teen years, they can devour stacks of easy to read fiction. This is good; it builds their reading fluency and speed.
Just like we try to encourage our kids to eat something besides peanut butter. We have the opportunity to expand their horizons by offering up a varied diet of genres.
Reading aloud books that cover difficult topics – appropriate to their age fosters family discussion. It gives you the chance to hear what they think, share your view of the world. Building an expectation and culture of dialogue and respectful debate is important. When they are teens, hopefully, the conversation will continue.
Here are a few books that helped us see the world from another point of view. Both inspired discussion, not just about the point in history they take place. The event may be in the past, but treating people with inherent human value will never go out of date.
Both of these books would be excellent reading, considering the current events.
Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Or, Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jaime Ford
Tools for Success
Books about books
If you aren’t sure what to read or where to start, pick up a book about books.
Below are my favorite books and a couple of online book lists.
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
Jim Trelease’s classic, The Read-Aloud Handbook
How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt (faith based)
Institute for Excellence in Writing has a list of Books for Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day
Simple Homeschool’s Top 25 read-alouds (ages 5-12)
Amy Lynn Andrews created a massive Living Books List
You only have two hands and one brain – the children outnumber you. How in the world can you get everything done and find time to read aloud?
Maybe your reading skills are a bit shaky. It’s not as uncommon as you might believe.
Some books have so many unfamiliar place/character names that you stumble through, butchering the pronunciation.
Enter – audio books.
Like I mentioned in the post about Quiet Time, libraries still have a collection of books on CD. We kept one of these going all the time, in our CD player. Anytime we had repetitive work to do, (laundry folding, shelling peas, doing art) we turned the book on.
Audio books will multiply your time. One of my daughters is always making things. She writes about her projects at Textile Indie. As an adult, she still prefers to listen to books, while working on a project. She also listened to her favorite books over and over. I wouldn’t have had the patience to read Caddie Woodlawn to her 25 times. But the CD player didn’t mind a bit.
A family can “read” dozens of books by using commute and travel time.
Something to do with your hands
First, let me explode a myth.
If you have more than one child, there will never be a perfect time.
The wider the age range and the more children you have, the more of a three-ring circus read aloud can be.
It doesn’t have to look perfect.
My fourth child is high-energy. Even as a teen he’s just plain kinetic. He hasn’t stopped moving since the day he was born.
His energy made for some frustrating read aloud sessions. Usually, if he was (mostly) not disturbing anyone, I let him be. Wandering around the room, standing on his head, building elaborate Lego structures – I was sure that he wasn’t getting anything out of the book.
And time after time he would surprise me by mentioning details about books we had read months earlier. Eventually, I learned to trust the process and stopped trying to make everyone “get something” out of the reading.
For some children having a quiet-ish activity to do with their hands will make a read aloud session successful. Coloring, drawing, latch-hook, playing with toy figures are all good options.
Podcast Read-Aloud Revival
Sarah Mackenzie’s podcast, Read-Aloud Revival is a must listen.
She will inspire you with her interviews to read, read well, and read a lot.
There are also oodles of book recommendations on the podcast.
Read around themes
An excellent way to pick books is to use themes.
The books about books listed in Number One will help with this.
Pick a book to tie into a holiday, historical event, a family activity or upcoming travel.
Based on the book…
We had a (sometimes breakable) rule that we had to read the book, before viewing the movie.
One of my children’s favorite books is The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.
When The Eagle came out years later, we watched it.
I don’t have anything against the film itself, standing alone it’s a perfectly good movie. But like most movies that come from beloved books, it came up short for us. My daughter was so outraged she jumped on Amazon, bought a copy with her money and insisted we read the trilogy aloud as a family so their dad could hear the “real” story.
Reading a book aloud, in anticipation of watching the movie, will spur family discussions.
(Some of the links in this post may be “affiliate links”. This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive a small commission. That’s what keeps the site up and running. Regardless, I only recommend products and services I use personally and believe will add value.)
Reading aloud is one of the best investments you can make in family life.
Time has an annoying opportunity cost. We can’t spend it twice.
There is not much in the world that is worth trading for that precious time each day to sit together as a family and read a good book.
What tips do you have for a smooth story time routine? If you have a storytime related blog post, I invite you to link to it.