Raising Readers: Protect Your Readaloud Time

Mar 2, 2015

A few nights ago, Aaron and Max were having one of those nights. They were whining about everything, teasing each other mercilessly, and moving like tortoises. In a moment of frustration, Mike said, "That's enough. Just go to bed. Right now."

I was torn. Yes, they were being so ornery. Yes, they should have a consequence. But I really hate punishing by taking away our readaloud time. I told Mike, "Aaron has been at school all day. Then I was gone for most of the evening at a church activity. I don't want to make him go to bed right now. I have only had a total of two hours with him today. If I make him go to bed right now, I will miss that important time to connect with him at the end of the day."

And so I still read to them (we're currently reading Danny the Champion of the World), and they were given a different consequence.

We vary where we read: Sometimes it's on the couch in the living room. Sometimes I climb up the ladder into their bunk bed. Sometimes we burrow deep under the covers in my bedroom. But we rarely vary when we read. (Although, I'm realizing as I'm writing this that we actually missed it last night. It was Max's birthday, and they got up so early, and by the time the party was over and they were ready for bed, it was already past the time when we normally read, and I knew in this instance that sleep was more important).

I understand that nights might not work for everyone as a perfect readaloud time. But I hope if you don't read together at night that there's another time during the day when you do read aloud. And I hope you vigilantly protect that time for these reasons:
  • It opens the door to conversations. (You never know what you'll find out as you're reading. A situation or character in the book can be a springboard to a real-life conversation.)
  • It provides a time to be physically close to one another. (This is really important to me. I don't spend enough time during the day giving hugs or being affectionate, but reading together gives me a natural time and place to have them close beside me.)
  • It creates a unique language and point of reference for your family. (For example, when one of the boys says, "I'd like some Mercy Watson toast please," we know exactly what he means.)
  • It helps everyone calm down. (I have four crazy boys, but I crave quiet. Reading together is one of the only times during the day when I get to have some of that longed-for quiet with them.)
  • It is fun. (I can't count the number of evenings we spend laughing over something that happens in the book we're reading. We have read so many wonderfully entertaining books over the last six years.)
And before you think that Bradley and Clark are missing out on the nightly readaloud time, let me tell you that Mike takes the two of them and reads while I'm reading to the older ones. So that's another reason:
  • It gives them (semi)-alone time with one parent. (I have plans to let Mike read something like Redwall or Prince Caspian to the older two, but so far, I've been fairly selfish with that time because there are so many books I want to read to them! I should also mention that I have my own time with the younger boys every day after lunch.)
Do I dare admit that I'm counting down the days until summer so we can have even more built-in reading time?

Tell me what reading aloud looks like in your family. When do you do it? Where do you do it? What are you reading right now?


  1. We have story time every night as part of our bedtime routine, but in the past month or so bedtime has become extremely dramatic with our transition-resistant three-year-old, and I've found myself consistently threatening, "If you don't put your pjs on right now, then no story time!" It's been a very effective threat, so part of me is like yay! He loves story time so much the threat of taking it away is enough to make him obey. But the other part of me feels guilty, like this should never be a threat because what happens on the day when we have to follow through? (I remember when my parents used to take my books away as punishment, and it was terribly effective but I vowed I would never do that with my children. And here we are.)

    1. I know what you mean! I find myself threatening "no stories" too, but I absolutely hate having to follow through with it (and we have had to on occasion). I really miss that time with my kids when we put them straight to bed.

  2. We're occasionally taken away bedtime reading time as a punishment, but I don't like it either. And my daughter cries as though her heart is breaking. So I try very hard not to do that. Usually my husband reads to her at bedtime (she is Daddy's girl through and through), but I often read to her at breakfast and other times during the day. I love your list of the benefits of reading aloud - all true 100%!

    1. I really do like to give my husband time to read to them, but it is tricky now that my oldest son is in school because I like to have my time to read to him, too! :-)

  3. We don't really have a set routine, but we do try to read aloud each day. This post is such a good reminder for me!

    1. I know you do lots of reading aloud, Monika!

  4. Wonderful post! Read aloud time is much beloved ritual in our house


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