Raising Readers: Give Dad a Turn

Jul 6, 2015

For months, I have wanted to let Mike have a chance to read aloud to Aaron and Maxwell. It's not that he's never read to them, not by a long shot. We've always shared the reading of picture books, but up until this point, I've been the sole reader of anything longer than thirty pages (except for a brief, but fairly unsuccessful, attempt at The BFG a couple of years ago).

That's because I've selfishly hoarded that time for myself. It wasn't exactly intentional. I wanted to give him a turn. We even talked about which books he would like to read to them. But every evening when 7:30 rolled around, I found I couldn't let go. There were so many books I wanted to read to my kids, and I treasured that quiet time at the end of the day.

But then with the advent of summer, I realized the time had finally come. I planned on doing a lot of reading with the boys during the day, so I figured I could give the evening time slot to Mike. We even made it one of the summer goals, and I take those very seriously, so I knew I wouldn't snatch it back again.

I knew this would be a good experience for everyone, which is why I was so adamant about it (even while dragging my feet). But it has far exceeded our expectations. Everyone has benefited from it (yes, even me).

So here are those benefits, from the viewpoints of everyone involved:

From the boys' perspective:
  • They get to hear books they wouldn't hear otherwise. Mike and I have different tastes, it's true. Awhile back, Mike said, "Why don't you read Redwall?" And I said, "Why don't YOU read Redwall?" So that's the first book they started with. And they've all loved it.
  • They have more freedom. Mike is more laid back than I am, and so I've noticed he doesn't really mind if they're wrestling on the floor while he's reading to them. He doesn't even seem to mind if Bradley starts chit-chatting on the side (provided it doesn't go on too long). He just keeps the reading going in a steady flow, and they know that even in the midst of their movements, they better pay attention or they'll miss something.
  • Even Bradley loves it. This was something I hadn't expected. In the past when I read to the two older boys, Mike would take Bradley and read picture books to him. With Mike now being the one to read the chapter book, I kind of just assumed that I would read with Bradley, and I was looking forward to that one on one time with him. But in a surprising turn of events, he usually opts to go with Mike and Aaron and Max. I guess he doesn't want to miss out on boy time.

From Mike's perspective:
  • He loves seeing them get excited. For a long time, I've been telling him how much fun it is to see the boys' reactions to whatever we're reading. Maxwell especially loves to make predictions and gets very animated as he conjures up elaborate climaxes and endings and pins all sorts of motives on various characters. Mike had seen the boys do this when I was reading to them, but it's completely different now that he's immersed in the story himself.
  • It gives him something to talk about with them. Even when they're not actually reading, they've found a new common language with each other. I find them talking about the story all the time or relating it to something else that's going on.
  • It gives him an excuse to unwind in the cool basement. When Mike gets home from work, he likes to retreat to the basement (especially if he's commuted on his bike). Now he gathers up the boys, grabs the book, and reads for a half hour or so before dinner (an added benefit for me--see below).
  • He enjoys the book himself. It's one of the rules you have to follow if you hope to enjoy reading aloud to your kids: only pick things that you yourself will enjoy reading. Mike absolutely loved the entire Redwall series as a kid, and he is enjoying it just as much as an adult.
  • It's just good quality time. That's the simple, basic truth. It's why I enjoy reading to my kids, and it's why Mike enjoys reading to them.

From my perspective:
  • I don't have to read books I'm not interested in. (See above.)
  • I get some time to myself. I hadn't even originally factored this into the equation. I was so worried about missing out on the readaloud time myself that I didn't even think about getting some extra quiet time. I also hadn't realized that Mike would enjoy reading aloud so much that he would take them away any chance he could get.
  • It's so heartwarming to see them loving each other's company so much. I'm usually in the midst of the reading aloud. It's a position I love, but there's something equally magical about being the outsider looking in.
When we made our goals at the beginning of the summer, Mike only agreed to read two books to the boys (Redwall and Prince Caspian). He was so sure it was going to take him all summer to get through Redwall because it's such a long book. (He even insisted on buying it because he didn't want to have it checked out from the library for that long.) Two weeks later, I think they only have twenty pages left. I'm pretty sure they will easily surpass that goal because I don't think Mike has any intention of stopping.

How about it, dads? Do you read aloud to your kids? What have been some of your favorite readalouds to date?


  1. Glad you've all been having such a good experience with this, Amy. I'm actually a very early riser, and I've found with my daughter staying up later during the summer that my husband has to be the one to read to her before bed most nights, because I can't stay awake :-). I often read at breakfast (or other times) instead.

    1. I'm glad you've found a time that's worked well for both of you! It's nice that he can step in during the later summer evenings. (And breakfast is a great reading time--I read to my kids during that time also (it means my one-year-old is contained! :-)).

  2. Love this article. Thanks for sharing!

  3. LOVE this post, love it when Dads read to their kids. My husband is always on read-aloud duty when he's home for bedtime routine (so, on the weekends), and I think it's great. Also love it when he reads for pleasure in front of the kids, as in, this is something grown up men do for fun too.

    1. I'm not surprised at all to hear that your husband shares the readaloud load. Your kids are lucky to have two great role models!

  4. I'm divorced, and I'm fiercely committed to co-parenting, because my ex is my kids' role model, and they are the dads to my grandchildren (gotta have the long view!). So they've always dealt with having different books at different houses, and I "gave" the Narnia books to my ex knowing it meant I'd miss it. But I think it's worth it for kids to see that both parents love reading.

    1. You're inspiring! It's nice that your kids' dad is on board with reading, and of course, kudos to you for artfully encouraging it to happen. :-)


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