by Amanda Hill
We all know that reading aloud every day is one of the best things we can do for our kids. However, it is sometimes easier said than done. If you are just getting started with a regular, daily story time, your first attempts may leave you feeling discouraged. But don’t despair! With a little bit of planning and groundwork, you can set up your story time for success.
1. Choose the right time. The “right time” is that point during the day when your child is able to be calm and focused, nothing else putting demands on your time, and you don’t feel rushed. For many families, this time comes at the end of the day as part of the bedtime routine, giving us the bedtime story as the gold standard of childhood.
But bedtime doesn’t work for everyone. By the time bedtime rolls around for my family and all the bathing and brushing and dressing is complete, the kids are too tired to focus. So story time for us is right after lunch. Maybe for you it will be after dinner or before homework. Do what works for your family.
2. Choose the right place. This may seem like common sense, but sometimes we set ourselves up for failure because of where we are reading. Another reason bedtime stories are a challenge for my family is because the kids want to play with the toys in their bedroom. Choose a place in your home that is free from distractions where everyone can comfortably sit down and feel close. Some of our best story times happen around the kitchen table as everyone eats dessert. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
3. Let your children know when story time is happening. Kids like to know what is coming up next. They enjoy a routine. Throughout the day, remind them of what you will be doing and include story time. For example, “After dinner we are making brownies and then we are reading stories.” Really drum up the enthusiasm. Making story time something your kids get excited about and look forward to all day will make that time run much more smoothly.
4. Have some wind-down time from the screens before story time. It can be hard to transition straight from screen time to reading time. Switching from one to the other may result in groaning, eye rolling, and even temper tantrums. Try to have a period of quiet, screen-free time before you begin reading. This can be filled with playtime, talking, cleaning, baking, walking, etc. Television and video games shorten our attention spans and do all the “work” for us. Time away from the screen helps us prepare our brain for the work of reading, listening, and imagining. Just a few minutes is all you need to ease the transition.
5. Be consistent. Don’t give up. Each day you make the time to read with your kids makes the next day easier. Soon your children will be begging for you to read to them and you might find yourself fitting in two or three story times every day. Start now and keep going!