“Do we really have to sit here and listen, Mom? Please!” Four anxious faces stare back at me, waiting for my answer. Our current read-aloud story is supposed to be Robin Hood. The plan was to progress through the book together, taking in the beauty of the words and having an open discussion of ideas. Instead, my kids are hoping I’ll see things their way and the torture will end. We have a read-aloud dilemma and this mama’s praying for a solution.
Our stand-off might leave you with the impression our children dislike books in general. Let me assure you this is not true. Our children read an average of 100-150 books per week. Reading is not the issue. Reading aloud is not necessarily the issue either. We read our history and science lessons together daily and enjoy the experience. So what is the problem?
The Dilemma – The simple fact is reading aloud takes time. We need to be sitting down all together and work through the literature at a pace which will, on average, suit the entire family. This is difficult when you have children in a wide age range and some of your children are exceptionally fast readers. Reading aloud can additionally be challenged by children who naturally have shorter attention spans. Time dedicated for reading together might need to be short, and those children who are steeped in the read might balk at having to stop for the sake of other siblings.
While our children are all willing, and happy, to sit through read-alouds which directly pertain to our “learning day”, when it comes to fictional reads, all patience flies out the window. It seems we need a compromise.
The Compromise – I have reading lists which I’d like our children to work through, literature which would be of benefit or add beauty to their learning adventure. Rather than make them suffer through reading it as a group, these books are provided for them to read at their own pace. Often, our girls breeze through them quickly. My youngest and I slowly meander through his list with dedication, adding fun side trips to encourage a love of reading.
Outside our regular learning routine and during devotions, reading aloud as a family is generally done in the car! Those long drives to nature walks and field trips are the perfect opportunity to pop in a good audio book and enjoy a story. We can also pass around a novel, taking turns reading the book to the group.
The Discussion – As each of our children work through their reads, Mom is sure to keep an eye on progress and engage them in dialogue. We talk about favorite characters, lessons learned, world views, selections which we all found rather dull, passages which were beautiful beyond words, gentleman which were anything but, ladies who needed stiffer backbones, places we wish we could visit, and so much more. We laugh, groan, and sniffle together. As a few of us start in, the rest inevitably chime in with their thoughts or are encouraged to read faster in order to join in the conversation.
One key point I should probably highlight is that all assigned and highly recommended reads handed to our children are books I have read myself. Either I read them before handing them over or have read them in the past. If I am going to have an intelligent conversation with my children about key ideas and plot points, it would behoove me to know what they’re reading. As a side note, I would personally feel a hypocrite if I required my children to read something I had no intention of working through myself. My children take note of this and it makes an impression upon their hearts.
Now, four smiling faces urge me to, “Start the next story, please!” Happy voices remind everyone about our last read, while anxiously waiting to hear what is coming. We all settle in for the drive, and our minds are taken on a journey to another place even as our bodies are being transported on another adventure. Our read-aloud time is no longer a dilemma, but a delight.
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned;”
~ II Timothy 3:14-15
Your Turn!: How has your family dedicated time for reading aloud?