A few weeks ago I posted a quote that I have been reading over and over to motivate me in my reading goals. Part of that quote encourages me to organise and budget “the minutes and hours of the day” so that reading to the kids is included among all the other things that need to happen. It got me thinking about the ways I have tried to do that and how I could improve.
It can be really difficult to make sure that each child has some form of ‘reading’ each day. I often feel that our day is generally open for us to fill with a variety of activities, but by the time you add up all the simple tasks to be completed each day, time does get away from me. (When did ‘second breakfast’ become etched into our family schedule?)
So in an effort to make reading a daily occurrence, I have tried to follow a few self imposed guidelines. I try to say ‘yes’ when they ask me to read, I try to establish habits or routines that perpetuate reading times and I try to be creative and squeeze books into the cracks of time that appear in the day.
Years ago I heard or read of parents that say ‘yes’ every time their child asks them to read a book. I loved the idea because of the obvious message it sends to the child: You are important, and reading to you is something I love to do more than anything else. So I have tried this, because is there really anything sweeter that a child bringing a book to you and asking you to read it?
I do find it really tough. When the house is a mess, the dishes aren’t done, laundry needs to be hung out and I want to churn through my chores, but a kid wants me to read, it is very tempting to say no. But the reality is the house can be cleaned later and the dirty dishes and wet clothes aren’t going to be disappointed because I put them on hold.
Having said all that there are times when children have had to read to themselves because Mum was busy toileting a sibling or cooking dinner, and that is just fine too. It’s good for kids to read books to themselves even before they know how to read. Plus, if we have time built into our routine for stories, I can say no sometimes knowing a chance will be coming later in the day.
Creating reading routines or habits has been a real blessing in my life as a parent. It means that the kids expect a story at a certain time. Over the years the routines shift as mealtimes, nap times and betimes shift. For example, before the baby was on solids lunch time was a locked in 20 mins of stories. As I made lunch the girls would go collect a pile of stories for me to read to them as they ate. But now that I’m usually feeding the baby at lunch time it doesn’t really happen. Instead we have started having reading time “on wa-wa’s bed” before bed time. Again they expect it, they collect the books they want and it’s 20 mins or so of reading.
Another habit that has helped save me the ‘mummy guilts’ is reading before the TV gets turned on. This is especially good on the school holidays or lazy afternoons. The kids want to watch TV, and I’m not against it, but first they do some reading. I have found that they will whizz through the books, but at least they are doing it.
We have also found little ways to squeeze reading into the cracks of time that appear in the day. If we are going on a car trip for more than 30 mins I might ask if anyone wants to bring a book. For kids who don’t yet read independently a ‘look and find’ book or an audio book is ideal. A few weeks ago the big boy was in the car with nothing to read, but luckily we had a very old Melways floating around and he got stuck into that. Reading a map is still reading.
Then there are the times when reading to them helps you:
Toilet Training – While the kids are toilet training I keep a couple of favourite books on hand in the bathroom to distract them from the fact they are sitting on the toilet/potty.
Swimming Lessons – When you have to take the younger kid to swimming lessons but they can’t go in the pool – pack a couple of books. (Works for dance class, basketball or any other activity where one kid has to come and ‘watch’ their sibling.)
Travel – airports, airplanes and trains are all very exciting to young minds – for about 5 mins. Once they have pushed all available buttons and looked out the window momentarily they will get bored of this very exciting and much anticipated event. Books are a must for parental sanity.
It also helps me to keep in mind that reading one standard picture book to a child can be often be done in about 3-5 mins. I can do that – most days.