Bedtime stories are a long-standing family tradition in my family. Growing up I was read to every night before bed, a chapter here, a story there, and now do the same for my two boys who are two-and-a-half and nine months old.
Each night after brushing his teeth, my two-year-old picks a book off his bookshelf and the three of us hunker down in one of the big bean bag chairs we have sitting on the floor. Even though my oldest climbs around during the story and my youngest usually tries to eat the book, we have a great time making truck noises, turning the pages, and pointing out funny things in the pictures. It’s important to me that we are carrying on a family tradition and having a lot of fun together, with books, every night before bed.
Creating a daily reading routine with your child is more than just fun; it helps build vocabulary and listening skills, develops your child’s imagination, and encourages a love of reading. It also creates quality time between reader and listener and can be a wonderful conversation starter. And in thinking about your child’s future a 2007 study by The National Endowment for the Arts, To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence, found that children who read for enjoyment score higher on reading and writing tests and have greater success later in life. Talk about a win-win-win situation.
If bedtime stories are your thing, that’s great. But nighttime isn’t the only time to make reading an integral part of life at home. Here are some ideas to get you and your kids reading together throughout the day:
- •Let your kids pick the books they want you to read to them or that they would like to read themselves. If it’s a topic they are interested in, they will have more fun listening or reading about it.
- •Read a chapter a day. Choose a time of day that works best for you. For many it may be bedtime, like it is for me, but for others it may be over the breakfast table or winding down after dinner. Read one chapter aloud (for younger kids, choose one book.) Setting aside a special time of day to read encourages kids to look forward to reading each day and helps create a reading routine.
- •If the same time each day doesn’t work, mix it up. And, don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking that books are the only things that count as reading. Read the recipe with your child while cooking dinner. Point out street signs on your way home from work. Read the cereal box out loud. Why not read an article from the newspaper over breakfast and then chat about it with your kids as they get ready for school?
- •Set up a comfortable reading space with your child. This can be anywhere. Pick a chair and have your littlest ones curl up on your lap for a story. Cozied up in bed before bedtime is another great spot. Looking for some solitude while reading? Set up a reading nook in your home complete with a big comfy chair or even a big pillow on the floor. Have one for each child and let them make it their own space complete with a favorite book each night after supper.
- •Some days you may just feel too tired to read. If that’s the case why not listen to an audio book together? You can find picture books on CD that are accompanied by the book and younger readers can read right along with you, while older children can enjoy listening to chapter books while helping you with the dishes. The story is the same, the time together is still happening, and the discussion that follows can be just as meaningful.
- •Take one night a week and make dinnertime reading time, too. Everyone in the family must bring a book to the table and read while they are eating. After 20 minutes go around the table and have each person talk about what they just read. The discussions that arise from these dinners and how much reading actually gets done can be amazing.
Overall, it doesn’t matter if you read on a couch, a bed, or in a special reading nook. It doesn’t matter if it’s bedtime, or breakfast, or even on-the-go. It doesn’t matter if you are reading a picture book for a half-an-hour or a comic strip for one minute, just as long as you and your kids are reading together.