This is an updated version of a post I wrote for the PBS Parents blog Booklights. The original article appeared in August 2010.
Reading aloud is not only a great way to model reading, it can be lots of fun ... especially when you add voices and noise and bring the story to life.
With "little kids," reading aloud seems the natural thing to do. They can't read the words on the page, so you do it for them. Once young readers become independent, though, we sometimes forget that they still enjoy - and can also benefit from - listening to you read. But who has time to read with each child every night? "Not I," said the exhausted parent.
We need one book for sharing with everyone. But picking the right book can get tricky. The 9-year-old doesn't want to hear "baby" books, and the preschooler isn't ready for some of the subjects nor can they sit still that long! Finding books that interest your 4-year-old AND your preteen may be easier than it sounds.
Don't give up on picture books. Librarian Pam Coughlan points out in a PBS Booklights post that sometimes those pre-teen protests are a surface reaction. See: Reading Aloud: Picture Books Rule! (MotherReader, March 2009). After the requisite "that's for babies" teens will still sit and listen to a picture book. They may even surprise themselves with how much they enjoy their little brother's reactions. The secret bonus: you are modeling reading for them so they can read to their brother later!
Chapter books need pictures, too. Illustrated chapter books are helpful because young audiences often need the images which engage their interest while you read pages with a lot more text. In general, the chapters in these books are short, making it easy to read in small spurts and over consecutive nights.
Mix it up. Sometimes you have enough time - and the kids' temperaments are in sync - to read something that each child likes, and you can share a picture book and a chapter or two from a longer story. On those days when your energy is low, just pick one. The kids will understand ... and be happy not to miss the chance to spend quality time with you.
Regularly sharing a book as a family will not only let you reconnect and renew a love of stories and books. Who knows, as everyone becomes readers, maybe everyone will want a turn!
Toes and a book: Public photo on Flicker.com. Copyright All rights reserved by Tina Cockburn Photography, tcockburn2002.
Picture Books in the library: Bozeman Public Library by JSemenza on Flicker. Copyright All rights reserved.