Yes, it is possible. You can read to your children and enjoy it — all of you. My post on Why You Should Read to Your Children gave a few reasons for making it part of your family routine. But that doesn’t mean it’s always been easy for us to float away on imagination bubbles.
At first we failed miserably. I thought the children — ranging in ages from 2-9 at the time — would sit like angels and listen to me regale them with classic tales from C.S. Lewis. They did. For about five minutes.
Somewhere in the never-ending back story at the beginning of Prince Caspian, they faded out one-by one. Soon the family-bonding time turned into a frustrated fit of anger from — well, me. And it was “off to bed!”
I even used our regular family meeting table (a square one that seats all eight of us) as the reading spot so we could all be gathered around facing one another. A couple of children did actually stay focused. Not surprisingly, they were the ones who naturally gravitated toward words. The others? Well, let’s just say they were polite — but easily distracted.
I am happy to say, we’ve learned a few tricks to improve our family reading time. It’s no longer something we dread. In fact, the children moan if we miss it! And that’s in spite of the fact that we are reading through the unabridged version of — The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
That’s right — the whole thing.
A Few Key Steps
Here are a few key steps for reading to your children so you all enjoy it:
- Choose a time. Children crave consistency. Let’s face it, we all do. If we don’t schedule it into our weekly routine, it probably won’t get done. Make it predictable so it doesn’t conflict with other priorities. For us, every Tuesday night for 30-40 minutes is our family reading time. Important reminder: Always leave them wanting more, not wishing you had ended twenty minutes ago.
- Choose a place. We moved reading to the children from our family meeting table to the family room around the fireplace. Nothing like a fire to spark imagination in the winter. Everyone can still be more or less in a circle but each is free to relax a bit.
- Choose an activity. I know this seems counterintuitive to have them doing something while we read, but our breakthrough came when I decided to seek synergy in the reading time. We purchased a sketch book and colored pencils for each child. We gave them their own “creative tub” in which to keep them. It’s only for family reading time. While Dad reads, each child must first sit silently for a few minutes. Once the imagination wheels start to turn, they are free to create whatever their minds conjure up. It doesn’t have to connect with the story. Their hands stay busy while their minds stay active. And both activities together grow their imaginations.
- Choose a story. Don’t start with an encyclopedia or even cool gardening books if that’s your thing. Everyone loves stories. Choose stories that will interest them. But be sure to be a parent, as well. Pick tales that will put meat on the bones of their soul. That doesn’t mean you can’t toss in short, fun readings from time to time. In fact, you may want to have each of the children take a turn offering a short story or book to give them more buy-in into the process.
- Choose a voice. Make it a fun time for all of you by doing your best to find unique voices for each character. Believe me, it’s hard to keep track of them all in LOTR – but still fun. (Gimli still makes my throat tickle a bit too much, but Gandalf is a fun one.) Remember, you are training their imaginations by modeling how to read. No pressure.
I’ll post later on why we chose Lord of the Rings. You should choose what works for your family. I’d suggest making a “short list” of books you think might work and then discussing them with your children. Try to reach a consensus – and maybe a compromise — to get things rolling with their support. If your children are much younger, of course, any Dr. Seuss or similar tale will do the job.
How do you read to your children? What tips and trick do you use — or did your parents use with you — to create lasting family memories? Share a comment with a click here.