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Se7en Tips For Family Reading Time…

March 24th, 2011 · 20 Comments

Last week I posted: So You Have Raised a Reader… Now What? And I thought I would follow it up with a couple of questions we have been getting regarding reading together as a whole family. There are two types of reading together, really. The one type is when you are all together and reading your own thing, we usually do this just after lunch. The other type of reading is the type when one of us reads a book out-loud and we all listen in. When I was a child my father would read great big fat books to me… we have a shared memory of The World of Doctor Dolittle and The Hobbit. I have found that nothing stops all my kids together in their tracks as much as reading a good book with them. It is a great memory builder as we share the adventure and we travel to different places and times together. The type of books we read together provide us with a specific family culture that I am hoping will bind us together with collective memories for a long time to come.

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  1. What about books that appear too long?
  2. Often the best books are the longest books. A good writer that has a way with words and that can paint a beautiful story with words is most likely going to have a long book. Don’t be daunted, don’t be afraid and don’t read abridged books – go for the real thing and just enjoy the journey. Focus on the chapter for the day and that’s it. The book will be done before you know it!!! The first time I read Heidi to my kids I was totally overwhelmed to begin with, but very soon the story carried us through to the finish. And really one chapter, even one word at a time will get you going and the demands for more, more, more will get you to the end!!! If your kids are not used to read-a-louds then I would start of really slowly with just a page or two and read often… two or three days in between is too long!!!

  3. What sort of books do we read?
  4. Well the easiest place to look for books to read as a family is to look at lists of classics. The Railway Children, The Secret Garden and so on. You know those books that you read as a child and that your parents read as well… I also try and look for modern authors to read because amazing books are written all the time and I want us to read books from all sorts of authors. A brilliant example of a modern read-aloud: The Tale of Despereaux. Forget the movie associated with books, they are never up to the standard of the book… and often the plot is nothing like the book. Just read the story!!! I also try and avoid series because there is always one person that gets so extremely excited that they just can’t wait for us to get through it and devour it ahead of us. If you find a book that you are just not enjoying then you can either quit while you are ahead… often I will read a book we are battling with by alternating it with something short and light between chapters… but if a book doesn’t grab us after several chapters then we ditch it. Somehow we just don’t find the time to finish it and it dwindles away. Isn’t that the truth, there is always time to do the things we want to do!!! And if you are looking for family read-a-louds and you are not a Sonlighter – then I would head straight over to the Sonlight catalog and browse your way through hundreds of books that we have loved to read and will bring back memories that you want to share with your children!!!

  5. What do you do with extra the fidgety kid while you are reading?
  6. There is always one!!! I don’t let my kids sit and do lego’s or make puzzles or anything while they are listening, I find it too distracting and the thunderous roar of eight kids scrabbling around in the lego box is not for one moment quiet enough for me to read a story in. Also no drawing because my kids get so caught up in their arting that they quite forget to listen. They usually sit quietly, it is generally after a meal and there is a certain level of contentment in the air!!! I have had to train a few and asked “Sir Bounce a Lot” or “Madame Wriggle” to please leave the room for a chapter, just to let off steam. It isn’t punishment, they can choose to stay and they always do!!! If I have someone being noisy enough for me to have to read really loudly to be heard I just read softer and softer until no-one can hear… very soon they realize the background noise is not conducive to listening and they stop. Usually I can engage them with my voice… there is no harm in over dramatizing and speaking with different voices and accents. I am by no means brilliant at this!!! But it is good enough for my kids and your kids will love it too!!!

  7. How do we find the Time?
  8. Well, we all have this vision of long lazy evening and reading chapter books to our kids and that NEVER happens in our house. After dinner it is book time for little people and I usually read a couple of picture books before tumbling off to sleep. It just isn’t a good time of day to expect everyone to be attentive and frankly I am too busy with very little people that can be quite desperate for bed. As with most times that I read aloud I am generally surrounded by all my kids when I read at bedtime and as little people go to sleep my older kids end up in their beds reading their own books. If we have a really good book going then we usually read it directly after breakfast while everyone is still seated at the table. It sets the tone of the day, a good quiet time together before everyone sets off to attend to their tasks.

  9. How do we involve the father person?
  10. The father person did not grow up in a home packed with books and while he loves reading he doesn’t enjoy reading aloud. He does, however, enjoy being read to (don’t we all), and I try and keep a book going that we read just when he is around. For instance we have a forty minute drive to church on a Sunday and you would be amazed at how fast you can get through a chapter book in that time. And woe betide we read a chapter without him!!! He lives to hear the read-a-loud-saga as much as we do!!!

  11. Aren’t kids books just too boring for adults to read?
  12. No, good writing is good writing. In fact a child’s author has to work harder to retain a readers attention and so often typical children’s books are filled with more suspense and more energy than most. Some books are written on multiple levels as well: I had a teacher that read Winnie the Pooh to us in grade three and I know she enjoyed it more than we did… we saw it for what it was, a couple of animals living their adventurous lives, she laughed the whole way through it and saw it for all the interactions between “oh-so-typical” personalities!!!

  13. Are some books just too hard for younger readers?
  14. If you look at the kinds of books that were written for children in the “olden days” when children’s books began, you will see that those books never spoke down to children or used simple words for their audience. For example Beatrix Potter used the most wonderful spread of glorious words and she didn’t skimp on good words because she thought her readers wouldn’t understand them. I think the use of “big words” or words that they may not understand certainly doesn’t take away from the gist of the story and certainly within the right context an unknown word can very quickly become a new addition to someone’s vocabulary.


    And the Se7en +1th Tip…

  15. How do I make it memorable?
  16. Location, location, location… sometimes a book is just too good to wait until the next breakfast!!! I have read books to my kids under tables, under beds, up trees, on the jungle gym, outdoors in stormy weather, in restaurants and coffee shops… anywhere that isn’t ordinary. While I always carry our current book in our back I am also quite intentional about going on an outing with the sole purpose of reading a book… nothing like finishing up a book while sipping hot chocolate in a coffee shop!!! Somehow where we read a book seems to stick with the memory!!!

There you go some read-a-loud ideas for you. If you have some fabulous read-aloud ideas then let me know in the comments!!! There is always time for more good books!!!

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Tags: Brilliant Books · Language Arts · Se7en at School

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 melanie grant // Mar 24, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    I have found that we often underestimate our children’s ability to understand. When I first started reading substantial books like the classics to them – they kept asking where the pictures were. Now I occassionally have a picture for them to look at but now they are quite content to listen and keep asking for more. I love reading these books, because I also didn’t read a lot of the classics, so I get a second chance now and with even more understanding with maturity – I have found them really enjoyable.

  • 2 megwrites // Mar 24, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    What a great idea to read right after breakfast. I really want to start reading more chapter books with my kids, but at bedtime everyone is too tired and the most we can handle is a few picture books.
    I love your book recommendations and as a writer (as yet unpublished) I’m glad you don’t stick just to books written by authors in the past. It frustrates me when people insist on only the classics. I love the classics, but like you said amazing stuff is being written all the time.

  • 3 homeschool 4 muslims // Mar 24, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    ok i hv a question! how do you actually afford so many books :) no offence. I don’t know about cape town but libraries in johannesburg are really disappointing and i don’t know how can I even answer the question “what do we read now?” can you recommend any cheap book shops? exclusive and kalahari are quite expensive, at least for me.

  • 4 jacki // Mar 24, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    What an inspiring post. I really liked the idea of reading in different settings – we could certainly expand from reading on the couch, and reading while waiting in the ferry line-up!

  • 5 Karyn // Mar 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Mmmm, you bring back such great memories even by showing those wonderful book covers. Isn’t it wonderful how we can get lost in the world of each book. I so enjoyed reading this, thanks!!

  • 6 Denise // Mar 24, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    GREAT suggestions! You have such a great perspective! I am so challenged and encouraged by your blog! This week, I brought home a nursery rhyme book to my three year old (I was more excited than he) and he was disappointed because it didn’t have any buttons to push…I was crushed! We have a long way to go…but we are getting there. He’s overcome his disappointment and we’ve read the book entire book at least twice. Baby steps… :)

  • 7 se7en // Mar 25, 2011 at 12:18 am

    HI Melanie, Good to hear from you!!! You are so right, it takes a little training before they can listen to chapters at a time. I used to have to sit on the couch with everyone dripping over me!!! But now we can lie in the dark at bedtime and I can read bu torchlight and every time I stop a little voice will murmur “more”… and I can just keep on going!!! I think no matter how much we read as kids there is still so much o go back and read and I am so glad I have kids that force me to do it!!! Hope you guys have a fun weekend!!!

  • 8 se7en // Mar 25, 2011 at 12:35 am

    Hi MegWrites… We have read some amazing books by modern authors and I think folks may get stuck in a rut looking for classics… Classics are wonderful, there is no doubt!!! But there is indeed a place for many brilliant modern writers. I like the way penguin relaunched their Penguin Classics for Kids a year or two back with an introduction by a different and potentially classic modern author as well. (The Railway Children I link to in this post is part of that series). Thanks for stopping by, hope you have a great weekend!!! Nearly there!!!

  • 9 se7en // Mar 25, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Hi Homeschool 4 Muslims… Totally not offended… I should blog this – where to find books at bargain prices!!! Firstly half of our kids books are school books and we budget for their school throughout the year and pay one lump sum for our shipment from Sonlight. It is in the envelope “education” and we would be paying that money into any other school option we made and it would be a lot more money if all of our six scholars, this year, were in actual school… since we only have to buy books for the lead scholar and the rest read the hand-me-downs. Otherwise regarding the rest of our kids books, about a shelf per child: A lot of them are from my childhood – a good book lasts forever!!! So all the Richard Scarry’s and many Usborne books and most of the series come from my book loving parents. My kids each get gifted a couple of books a year and otherwise I do buy a few, but not many!!! I usually get them a good book for their birthday and at Christmas time we buy a pile of books that they can all enjoy. Exclusive books is very pricey and I hardly ever buy a book there or even browse there!!! Locally we have Kalk Bay books which is a great store that will order books overnight and their prices are very reasonable… The Readers Warehouse is totally fabulous. FABULOUS! I don’t know if you have one near you but you can get a great kids book for R20. to R25. easily. Another great supplier is The Book People, they sell collections of books which are simply to die for!!! And they turn out to be really reasonable a set of top quality books for R200., which makes it about R20. a book – even if you buy the set and give them away as gifts you are a winner… Hope this all helps!!! Definitely deserves a blog post!!!

  • 10 se7en // Mar 25, 2011 at 12:57 am

    Hay Jacki… Glad you liked it!!! Just wait till it’s warmer!!! Even stepping out the front door and reading in the shade of the lavender bush is enough to break the rut and bring good books to life!!! Hope the sun is shining for you and you have a fun weekend!!! Lots of love!!!

  • 11 se7en // Mar 25, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Hay Karyn, Books are indeed a world of their own!!! Glad you enjoyed the post!!! So glad you enjoyed your trip to Rondevlei, isn’t it a fantastic place!!!

  • 12 se7en // Mar 25, 2011 at 1:08 am

    Hi Denise… Oh I am so happy to inspire you!!! Keep at it, you will be amazed and surprised at how it will pay off!!! Have a fun weekend!!!

  • 13 homeschool 4 muslims // Mar 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    thanks a lot for the detailed reply. I will definitely check all these options (not inheriting YOUR books of course :) ) Thanks again!

  • 14 se7en // Mar 27, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    Hi Homeschool for Muslims, I was so glad to help!!! Your reply could well be a Saturday Spot for me sometime!!! As for my parents, what can I say I must have inherited their book passion – I grew up totally surrounded by books!!! Hope you have a fabulous week!!!

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