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.)
- 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.)
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?