One of my favorite parts of parenting is reading aloud with my girls each night.
We’ve been pretty consistent (not perfect, but not bad!) for the last nearly six years and experiencing some of my favorite books with them or discovering new books together has been such a delight.
A few weeks ago, I realized that, while I have a bunch of read aloud book lists on Everyday Reading, I’d never done a post about the logistics of being a read aloud family and how to make it work with your own children.
I asked on Instagram what was challenging and got so many great questions.
Many of them were similar, so I put together this list of 10 read aloud tips that will hopefully make it easier and smoother for you to spend a little time most days reading aloud from a chapter book with your children.
It really is magical.
10 Tips for a Successful Read Aloud Experience
- Start chapter books at the right time. If you’re a big reader yourself, it can be SO tempting to jump into books before your child is really ready for them. My girls have all been ready for read aloud chapter books around age 4. If you try it out and they just aren’t quite ready, put it aside for a bit and then come back in a few months. There is no gold star for doing it younger!
- Pick a time that works for YOUR family. Right now, I read aloud to my girls before bed, after everyone is in their pajamas with their teeth brushed, lunches packed, homework done, and my 2 year old put to bed. But last year, when I only had one child going to school in the morning, I generally read to them before she left to school. During the summer, I frequently read aloud in the afternoon once quiet time is over. There’s no one right time to read aloud. Look at your family schedule and situation and figure out what will work best for YOU.
- Pick books that are the right level for your oldest children. This was one of the most commonly asked questions about reading aloud – which child do you pick the book for? Because my girls listen to so many audiobooks, they’re all strong listeners, so I choose books that cater most to my 9 year old and no one else seems to have trouble following along.
- Let them keep their hands and bodies busy while you read aloud. This really should be tip #1 about reading aloud to your kids. It is unrealistic to expect most kids to sit quietly and still while you read aloud – they can listen BETTER if they can do something with their hands (for the same reasons that you probably listen to audiobooks or podcasts when you’re folding laundry or doing dishes). I grew up practicing braiding my sisters’ hair or painting my nails or crocheting while my mom read aloud and now my girls are always doing something when I read aloud to them (see this list for 20+ activities that are perfect for read aloud time). If they’re jumping on the bed or doing somersaults or jiggling their foot endlessly – let them do it. (I love this podcast episode on this topic if you need some professional okay).
- Expect a little chaos. They’re kids. There are probably multiple of them. There will be some noise, some interrupting, some outbursts about “SHE TOOK MY SPECIAL GREEN PENCIL.” Just keep reading. Get a little softer instead of a little louder. Stop if you need to and regroup, but don’t expect it to be a Norman Rockwell painting. And on the rare occasions that it is, soak in that peaceful moment.
- Make read aloud time a privilege. You want your children to WANT you to read aloud with them. Make it fun and low-key and a pleasant time that they can color or play with play-doh or make necklaces or practice handstands. And let them know that if they can’t behave (interrupting constantly, bugging siblings, making too much noise, etc), that they are lovingly not invited to this special time. It’s amazing how fast my four year old can pull herself together because she’d WAY rather be in with us reading than sent to bed.
- Do Voices. Or don’t do voices. I do zero voices. It’s stressful to me and makes it way less fun and I just don’t want to be bothered. Bart does voices when he reads aloud to the girls and they LOVE it. So if it’s something that works for you, go all out. If not, that’s fine too.
- Don’t let the chapters be the boss. It’s very easy to feel like you have to be reading for 30 or 40 minutes. Just 10 minutes is plenty! If your book has short chapters, perfect. If they’re long chapters, don’t feel like you have to read a whole chapter! When we read Beauty last year, those chapters were LONG so I mostly did half or even a third of a chapter per night.
- Quit a book that isn’t working for you. This is SO IMPORTANT. To be sure, most kids (and frankly adults) are going to not love the first chapter or two of a book – push through that resistance. But if the book is not drawing you in, you find yourself skipping read aloud time or you can tell your kids are just not into it? Toss it and pick something else. When I’m reading aloud a book to my girls that we’re all loving, we read more chapters, add in extra sessions in the morning or afternoon, and everyone gets ready for bed faster. When none of us are into it, I claim that it’s too late, I’m too tired, I have too many other things to do and we don’t end up reading at all. Don’t let a book ruin read aloud time for you.
- Keep it simple. It can be so easy to overthink the whole read aloud thing. Try not to. Pick a book you think will be engaging, open it up and read aloud while your kids color. Read for 15 minutes and then do it again the next day. It doesn’t have to be perfect (and it will for sure not be 99% of the time). Just keep going. You’ve got this. You’ll get better at it and so will your kids.
Other questions about reading aloud to your kids? I’d love to help!