We’ve all seen the peaceful paintings of a mother and a couple of children sitting down in a comfy chair to enjoy a special time of mother reading aloud. Yet, when we try to gather our brood for a beautiful moment of storybooks and snuggling, we end up breaking up kick fights and raising our voices to a painful screech in order to be heard over the chatter. We spend so much time fielding nonsensical questions and bouncing the baby so she will quiet down that we give up the whole fiasco only a few pages into the book. For days (and sometimes weeks), we avoid read aloud time altogether until we can no longer resist the siren song of those scrumptious pages and our unrealistic dreams of oil painting perfect afternoons. Once again, we seat the children around us and once again we are met with the same result.
How can this be?
Why Read Aloud time isn’t meeting our expectations
The perfection of the picture above is only logical if you have 2 children, neither of which are babies…or toddlers…or special needs…or human. That picture isn’t realistic, and to desire a painted scene as your real life isn’t reasonable. It’s lethal. It will destroy your sense of worth as a mom, and demoralize you to the point of wondering what in the world you are doing wrong that you can’t have a peaceful read-aloud time like every other mother out there. (see how irrational you’re being?!)
It’s time to change your motivation and your methods! It’s time to make peace with Read Aloud Time!
When I only had two children, I could make Read Aloud Time look much like the photo at the beginning of the post…for about 10 minutes. My curious son would soon begin asking questions, and my high needs daughter was soon overstimulated and needed a break. Fast forward a few years and a few kids, and I couldn’t make Read Aloud Time look like anything picturesque. Thankfully, I quickly stopped beating myself up and began to mold Read Aloud Time into something that worked for our family. Over the years, my methods have changed and my motivations have evolved. Let me share with you how I made Read Aloud Time peaceful!
The RIGHT motivation for Read Aloud Time
I want you to be honest with yourself. Are you doing Read Alouds because someone said you “had to?” Do you feel guilty if you don’t get them in? Are you longing for the ideal and image you have in your head of what Read Aloud Time looks like?
STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
Your motivation for reading aloud to your children needs to change in order for you to find peace. Read aloud to your children to introduce them to classics, help them calm down in the midst of a busy day, learn about a certain school subject, and enjoy a little bit of time together in fellowship. Reading aloud doesn’t require a certain amount of time in order for it to be legit. And it doesn’t require a certain atmosphere in order for it to “count.”
Something else I want to say here may differ from the opinions of others, but I do not believe Read Aloud Time should ever be a time of discipline. I know many people advocate for Read Aloud Time to be a time of teaching your children to sit still, but I don’t want to bring that kind of strife into the equation. I would rather carve out another time to discipline my way through teaching a child to sit. If I have an antsy or disruptive little one, I either let them run off to play in another room or I wait to do read alouds until they are occupied elsewhere, sleeping, or in a better mood. The surest way to make read alouds miserable is to spend the entire time disciplining. It is OK if you don’t read to all of your children all at the same time. This is especially true when you have a wide range of ages.
How to make Read Aloud Time work for your family
So, let’s get practical with the WHERE of reading aloud. Contrary to all those images of Read Aloud Time in your brain, you do not have to sit surrounded by your children in a floral chair near a window and a vase of flowers with soft music playing in the background. Read aloud time can have many homes and can change from day to day! Here are a few ideas to get your started:
*at the dining room table after a meal
*at the table during the meal
*in the car on a trip
*in the car while waiting for daddy to run an errand
*on the floor
*on the porch swing
*on the back porch
*on a blanket in the yard
*on the couch with the children on the floor
*on the couch with some of the children on the back of the couch
*in your bed
*in the childrens’ bedrooms with them in bed
*at the doctor’s office
One of the keys to WHERE is to have a book with you at all times and in all places where an impromptu Read Aloud Time might happen.
So, what about the WHEN? Frankly, the when can happen any time of day or night! Don’t feel you have to be locked into a certain time. Life happens and feeling guilty because you didn’t do your Read Aloud first thing in the morning makes for a rotten homeschool mom day. And don’t think you have to read aloud EVERY day in order to be a proper homeschool mom. Yes, it is good to shoot for a certain time each day (the children become accustomed to it and respond very well to that kind of rhythm), but your motivation for reading aloud is not to check off a box on your list. And remember, you don’t have to read aloud for an hour or even half an hour. 10-15 minutes is well worth it and often has you stopping before any of the children begin to fall apart and lose interest.
Over the years, we have done a Morning Basket time to read aloud, we’ve done a nightly read aloud through the Little House books, and we’ve done an afternoon read aloud time in conjunction with Tapestry of Grace. All of these Read Aloud Times have held their own special memories…memories my children will carry with them into their adulthood.
Now, WHAT should you read aloud?
At the risk of sounding trite, my answer has to be ANYTHING! Read from the Bible, a book of Bible stories, a newspaper, the internet, Dr. Suess books, a book of poems, a Beatrix Potter anthology, a cookbook, the manual to your coffee pot. Why? Because reading aloud from a variety of sources gives your children exposure to many different words and styles of writing. Take them to museums and read the plaques. Read billboards as you are driving. Read mail, magazine articles, and backs of cereal boxes!
Yes, I know that isn’t quite the answer you were looking for, but the more you can expose your children to the written word, the more they will acquire a taste for it and an understanding of sentence structure and vocabulary.
But, if you are looking for a list of books, I do have a few suggestions…
*Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt – work your way through the suggestions
*Book lists online – try Ambleside or curriculum sites
*Do a search on Pinterest for books lists
*All Through the Ages – a list of books based on time periods in history
The final suggestion I have is to get your hands on a good curriculum that uses living books – books that aren’t dry and boring, but alive and tasty! Examples of this are Five in a Row, Tapestry of Grace, Heart of Dakota, and Sonlight. I like that TOG gives me a direction for our read alouds as we move through history with the books we are reading. You can find a very good overview of living book curriculum HERE.
And trust me when I say that someday you will look back on your family’s Read Aloud Time and smile because you will no longer remember all the craziness and chaos or the times you didn’t fit it in to your day, or the child who never sat still. You will only remember with a sigh and a smile and those lovely rose-colored glasses history hands you how Read Aloud Time felt like your own little slice of Heaven.