If you asked my children (or anyone who’s close to me) to describe me, I have no doubt their list would include:
- She loves to serve Jesus through volunteering.
- She’s clumsy.
- She LOVES to read.
Pretty accurate assessment of their mom. Anyone who knows me can attest to my love of reading and to the importance I place on reading with my children. In fact, I’ve written about how important time spent reading with your children is here. While most of you don’t doubt the importance of reading with your kids, you may be wondering where to find the time.
I hear you. Finding time for our children to read or for us to read with our children can be difficult. It seems our schedules are crammed with activities from sun-up to sun-down, but it is possible to find more time than you think to read with your kids, especially this summer. Here are a few tricks I’ve discovered to make the most of our time.
Make Reading a Priority
We always seem to make time for the things we value, so if reading is to make our to-do list, we must discover and prioritize its value. While reading does improve our children’s spelling, comprehension, test scores, and writing, the real reason I value reading with my children is connection. Reading with your children provides a bonding experience like few others. There’s such great value in sharing a book with our children, and once we discover this, we will begin to make reading a top priority, as important as piano lessons or baseball. Reading allows us to slow down, sit with our children, and connect over a shared experience. Studies find that children who read are more compassionate. What a great way to discuss those touchy, uncomfortable issues with out tweens and teens. Find books with characters who are experiencing similar struggles as your child and discuss how the character faces and overcomes challenges. Reading together offers the key to open the door to your child’s heart through unguarded conversations about deep, meaningful topics that can help shape your child’s character. What other activity offers that opportunity!
Make Books Accessible and Don’t Worry About Carving Out a Large Chunk of Time for Reading
I have books all over my house. Literally. I even decorate with books. Any time my children and I have a minute of downtime, I grab a book and read. I’ve been told it’s my ADHD, but I never read one book at a time. Currently, I am reading three non-fiction books and one fiction for my personal reading. Right now, I am also reading To Kill A Mockingbird and The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden with both of my children, Gulliver’s Travels with my son, and Louisiana’s Way Home with my daughter. My husband is also reading The Hunger Games series aloud to my daughter. Both of my children are also reading books on their own that aren’t read alouds. These books are placed within easy reach. While lunch is cooking, the kids and I read at the table. I don’t eat breakfast, so I often read to the kids while they are eating breakfast. I’m sure we are breaking some Emily Post rule, but I don’t really care.
In our house, I usually don’t allow the kids to turn on the television before 3 pm and never unless they’ve spent 30-45 minutes reading quietly in their rooms. After dinner, rather than immediately watching television, the kids and I read a chapter in a book first. We read before bed. If we have a few minutes of downtime in the afternoon, we will sit on the back porch and read. My daughter and I always take a book to my son’s baseball games and read during warm-ups. A also carries a book with her to drama rehearsal and reads during breaks. My son prefers audio books, which are available at the library. He likes to listen in the car or while resting in his room after a busy day. Do my kids always love to read? No, but they know it is the expectation in our house. And yes, my kids play video games, watch cartoons, ride bikes, and pursue hobbies, but reading is a priority, and my kids enjoy the bonding over a shared book, as well.
We don’t always finish a chapter. Sometimes we only read for five or ten minutes, but it adds up. Just ten minutes a day is 70 minutes a week. Seventy minutes a week is 3, 640 minutes a year. You can read a lot of books in 3, 640 minutes. We have strict limits on electronic time, and my kids do not own smart phones, which frees up a great deal of time for a more meaningful activity than social media or mindless scrolling.
Like most of you, my family also keeps a busy schedule, which creates a challenge for carving out reading time. Most days we are at co-op, where I am the Challenge Director for my children’s Classical Conversations group or are completing school work at home. I am also Teaching Director at my local Community Bible Study. My children are involved in piano, theater, science class, and sports, and I run a tutoring business. The activities seem to outpace our available hours, but with creative thinking, we are able to find ways to fit reading into our schedule because the benefits outweigh the costs.
Get to Know Your Local Library and Sign Up For Summer Reading
If you feel like you have to bribe your kids to read, let the library do the work for you. Summer reading programs are a fantastic way to encourage your child to read more during the summer. Yes, my children like to read for prizes. I like to read for prizes, and our local library in Nashville gives away fantastic gift certificates to restaurants, museums, and other attractions sure to please even the pickiest of readers.
Rather than signing up online, take your child to the library. Make a big deal out of visiting the library, so it becomes a place your child looks forward to going. I have taught my children how to use the library and even encourage them to interact with and get to know the librarians. When my children see a book they want, they know how to go online and reserve it for pick up at the library. I taught them how to search the database for topics they like or authors they enjoy. If you aren’t sure how, I assure you, your child can probably teach you. If you make visiting the library a part of your regular routine, chances are your child will continue to visit long after they’ve left your home.
While one of my goals is to have literate children, my bigger goal is to build memories and connections with my children. Relationship-building is my ultimate priority, and sharing books with my children through reading is an organic relationship builder. It isn’t awkward, artificial or forced; it’s as natural as breathing. My children fondly remember the books we read. Just this morning, as I was reading The Vanderbeekers with my kids, my son said, “Mom, do you remember that book where the kids jumped through dimensions trying to find their dad?”
I responded, “A Wrinkle in Time?”
“Yeah, I really liked that book.”
“Me, too, buddy.”
This led to my daughter recalling books she’d enjoyed and the anticipation of a summer of new ones. If you are looking for a way to connect with your children, build memories that last, and strengthen their educational muscles, do not underestimate the power of sharing stories. I promise you it is worth every minute.