We are a family of book lovers. Both my husband and I love reading and our kids are taking after us. Just step into our house and you’ll see the bookshelves lining the walls. And if you run into us on the way home from the library, we may ask you to help us carry all our books!
While we usually think of reading as a solitary activity, reading together is a great way to connect with your child. Here are a few ways that our love of books is bringing us together.
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Reading with Babies and Toddlers
Joey (18 months) is a busy baby. He likes throwing balls, watching the construction happen on our street, “helping” Daddy with anything involving tools around the house, and trying to ride his sisters’ bikes. Naptimes and bedtimes have been a fight lately, because he doesn’t want to stop (until he crashes). Then I found the digger books.
Now, Joey will happily plop himself down in my lap to read Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site or Demolition. By the end of four or five board books, read once or twice or thrice each, he’s starting to slow down. Because he’s so busy, I cherish these little moments when he’s still, snuggled up under my chin (where he barely fits already!), and focused on the pictures in front of him.
Since I spend most of my time with him already, it may not seem like a big deal to be reading together. Yet I find myself enjoying this chance to connect with my child, when we’re just enjoying each other’s company (and a good book), instead of focused on feeding, changing, cleaning, stopping, etc.
Reading Together with Children
Once Sunshine and Lily started reading on their own, we stopped reading together as much. They can pick up whatever book they want to read, so they don’t need to wait for me to read with them. With the library open to them, they’ve started reading books their friends or the librarians recommend to them.
And I felt left out. I didn’t know what they were reading… but I didn’t always have time to keep up with their reading. Suddenly, they were in a whole new world, without me. They could discuss their favourite books with each other or their friends, but I couldn’t.
Enter the audiobook. Just before we left for camping last summer, I stopped at the audiobook section in our library to grab a few stories for our drive.
13 Gifts, one of the girls’ favourite novels caught my eye. A friend of ours had given it to them, but Sunshine had found all the other Wendy Mass books at the library and devoured them.
I borrowed 13 Gifts, popped into the CD player in the van as we headed east, and was soon just as enthralled as Sunshine. I was delighted by the characters, the stories, the descriptions. In short, I was pleasantly surprised to find out what a good book she’d been reading!
Over the last year, we’ve listened to the other books in the Willow Falls series and enjoyed them as well. Then we moved on to Wings of Fire, a bestselling YA series that my nieces introduced to us. Currently, Sunshine and Lily are reading books 14 and 15 while Jade and I are waiting for about five other people to finish listening to Book 3 so we can borrow it next.
Listening to these audiobooks has given me a chance to discuss the stories with my daughters. They love dropping hints about what happens in future books (until I say “no spoilers!”). We also talk about the characters and the choices they make, thus turning the books into learning opportunities. Once again, I’m on the “in” with my daughters and what they’re reading.
Read-alouds for All Ages
We still read books together, either as read-alouds or as audio books.
Reading aloud lets us be fully present with our kids. It also increases their academic success, nurtures their capacity for compassion, and builds their inner strength to face life’s challenges. ~ Terence Rolston, Focus on the Family
When we’re camping, I usually pick a novel to read aloud to the girls after we crawl into the tent at night. I find it helps them all settle down and fall asleep better. Plus, if I’m the only one reading, we only need one headlamp or lantern in the tent! It’s a special memory for them and one trip, when I forgot to grab a book, they were greatly disappointed!
I usually pick a shorter, easier novel for this and often try to choose a book they might not pick up on their own (like Mr. Popper’s Penguins or A Bear Called Paddington or other stories I enjoyed as a kid, which they don’t want to read without some nudging).
Sunshine and Lily do history and science together, so I’ve often read their history or science textbooks aloud to them. Even now that they’re in grades 5 and 4, they enjoy cuddling up beside me while I read. In science, this helps them with big, new words they may not know. It also lets us all discuss it afterwards and again, helps me keep up with what they’re learning in school.
And road trips are always a great time to borrow some new books on CD or bring along our favourites. We’ve listened to The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia (more than once), easy readers like Magic Treehouse, classics like Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows, and more.
Since we’re all stuck in the van together, we have time to discuss the story before or after turning it on (especially when sad or scary things happen).
Connect with Your Child by Reading Together this Summer
If you’re making a summer reading plan, I’d encourage you to pick up something your child is reading. Or ask your kids for book recommendations! If they’re anything like my girls, they’ll be happy to share their favourite books with you.
Many popular novels are also now available as graphic novels. If you don’t have time to read the whole novel, this is another way to “catch up” with your child’s interests.
If you’ve both read a book, plan a one-on-one date to discuss the book. Or pick up the movie based on the book to watch together, and talk about which was better.
You can also find colouring books for many popular novels, including Narnia, Fancy Nancy, and more. This can be a fun activity to do while talking about the book—or listening to the audiobook together.
Do you enjoy reading together with your children? What are your favourite read-alouds or family audiobooks?