How to read aloud every day

read aloud every day

Written by Sarah Mackenzie of Amongst Lovely Things.

I‘m convinced that the minutes and hours I spend reading to my children are the best invested moments of my entire life.

With six kids underfoot to love on and teach, I fight a constant feeling that I’m not meeting everyone’s needs- not taking time for the things that matter most- that someone is growing up with the underlying feeling of being overlooked or forgotten.

When I’m reading with my kids, I never feel that way. No one has to convince me that reading to my children will strengthen our relationship, form happy family memories, improve their ability to communicate, and make a lasting difference in all of our lives.

I am convinced that the story formed childhood my parents gave me was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.”

– Sarah Clarkson, Caught Up in a Story (p. 6)

I have seen the fruit of that already, and I believe in it with all my heart.

But just knowing doesn’t make the doing any easier.

We are all so busy! There are a million other tasks crowding our days and vying for our attention. Adding anything to our to-do list seems like a recipe for disaster- surely it will just be another thing we “should” do, but can’t manage to make time for.

We worry that it will be another source of guilt, and who needs that?

Here’s an interesting thing to think about: if you read aloud for just five minutes a day (and not a minute more!), you will read more than 30 hours over the course of a year.

That’s a lot of reading aloud! In that amount of time, you could read the entire Chronicles of Narnia, all of David Copperfield, the whole collection of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, or over a hundred picture books.

read aloud every dayThe trick to reading aloud every day, though, (even if only for 5 minutes!) is to set ourselves up for success.

5 Ways to Set Yourself up for Success

1. Keep it handy.

I love to use baskets and other pretty organizers around my home, but the problem with stashing our current read-aloud in a basket is that we can’t see it. We do what’s right in front of our face.

Good or bad- that’s just the way human nature is. It’s why we’re more likely to turn on a TV if it’s in our main living area, and why dieting books suggest keeping fruits and vegetables cut up and ready to eat.

If the book you are currently reading together is left out in a high traffic and highly visible part of your home, you’re more likely to grab it and get in your five minutes.

Not sure what to read? Try any one of these books from my list of favorites.

2. Do it early.

It can be hard to read aloud earlier in the day when schedules are crammed, but the earlier you get to it, the better. I love reading aloud to my kids before bed, but sometimes fatigue or a crazy schedule makes that difficult.

Instead of relying on my 7 p.m. willpower (which is, admittedly, almost non-existent), I’ve been trying to read aloud as early in the day as possible. One of the great boons of homeschooling is that we have the freedom to make this happen!

Read Aloud Every Day

3. Peg it daily

Sticking to the same time every day can be a real challenge (and in fact, an impossibility) for many families. Don’t let yourself get discouraged by your struggle to read aloud at the same time every day.

Reading at the same time isn’t nearly as important as making sure that it actually happens.

Instead, peg your read-aloud time to something you’re doing every day anyway. In episode 7 of my Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Melissa talks about her family’s habit of reading poetry at breakfast.

I’ve always tried to pin read alouds to certain activities. I always used to do breakfast and poetry, because breakfast happens every day, so poetry happened every day! That initiative can be the hard part for me, in deciding that now I’m going to do this thing, so if I’ve got it slotted into a certain time of day, and there’s a routine to it, that seems to work well for everybody.”
-Melissa Wiley

In episode 11, Jamie shares her family’s habit of reading aloud during those final minutes before dinner, when life is crazy anyway and everyone is around.

My husband, Steve, had the clever idea of using that five minute period before dinner is on the table. You’re plating up or filling cups- it’s kind of a crazy time- so he suggested that he start reading then, and that gets everyone calmly to the table. We’ll start the chapter, which makes for a peaceful transition, then take a break while we eat, and then whoever finishes dinner first- him or I- will read some more when we’re done eating. It’s worked out really nicely.
-Jamie Martin

Your family is unique, and what works for Melissa or Jamie might not work for you. But something else will.

What happens every day in your home that you can use as a peg for read aloud time?

Read Aloud Every Day4. Mark your progress

It’s true- stress-relieving endorphins are released when we check items off our to-do list. It’s a huge source of motivation to track progress. You can use the free printable 100-Day-Challenge tracker over at the Read-Aloud Revival, if you’d like. Hang it in a place where you’ll see it regularly, like on the fridge in the kitchen. Every day that you read aloud for at least five minutes, color in a flag on the banner.

Or use a simple calendar and just x off each day that you’ve read aloud. I like using a single page calendar-on-a-page, like this one. All those x’s forming a chain make me all kinds of happy.

tracker575

5. Read what you love

When I am not enjoying a particular book, I have a hard time maintaining enthusiasm to keep at it day in and day out. There have been plenty of books others love that I have just not gotten excited about.

Instead of feeling insecure about why I don’t love to read The Hobbit or Swallows and Amazons, I’ve learned that I need to focus on reading books that I really enjoy.

If you read what you love, your children will feed off that enthusiasm. You’ll find a lot of momentum radiating from the fact that you are enjoying yourself.

Can you remember a book you enjoyed as a child? Can you remember one that was laugh out loud funny? Does the cover of a book at the library jump out at you? Try it!

We aren’t swallowing cod liver oil or eating our vegetables here. We’re simply training ourselves to get used to sharing books with our children every day.

Five minutes is all it takes, and we all have five minutes in our day somewhere.

Even if it means I don’t finish folding that pile of laundry, the kitchen sink isn’t wiped down quite as well after dishes are done, or the kids stay up five minutes later at bedtime— it’s worth it!

This is something worth fighting for- something we will not regret making a foundational part of our family life.

I’d love to know- how are you making read-alouds a pillar part of your family life?

About Sarah Mackenzie

Sarah is a smitten wife, mama of six (including twins!) and the author of Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace.
She hosts the Read-Aloud Revival Podcast and spends her time running the vibrant, active membership community there.

Comments

  1. I read a book called Things We Wish We’d Known, from veteran homeschoolers. All of them said, equally, that reading great books out loud had the biggest overall impact on their children’s’ minds and education. So I started reading stuff out loud. After a lot of trial and error, I found that it works best for us right now to read a chapter before bed. The kids are little and have a fairly early bedtime. We’re reading books I loved as a kid–right now it’s Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey.

    I have been lamenting to myself that we haven’t finished our workbooks this year. Thanks for this reminder about the importance of reading aloud. 🙂
    Kessie’s latest post: My writing process in meme pics

  2. Penny in VT says:

    Our happiest homeschooling memories revolve around reading aloud. You will never regret that 5 minutes a day.

  3. I love this article. I read to my kids right after we are all ready for the day (eg. when we are done cleaning up the kitchen and doing our teeth etc). This way it happens every weekday. The weekends we sometimes read aloud and sometimes do not read aloud but it happens at a different time. I tried reading before bed too, and it sometimes happens, but it generally does not as someone is usually too tired or cranky or I end up falling asleep reading. The best thing I have ever done in my life as a mother is reading aloud to my children.
    I do agree completely with “read what you love”. Early on I tried to weed out as much “junk” books as I could (not allowing it at the library etc) so that the kids wouldn’t want me to read it out loud. I know this is controversial but it really makes me love reading to read what I love and therefore they love me reading to them. The best thing I also did was getting a good book on reading out loud. I love Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson best.

  4. Excellent!! One of my favorite Simple Homeschool posts this year! Reading aloud to my kids is one of the hills I die on around this house. 🙂
    Hannah’s latest post: Clean and Dirty

  5. We build it in several times a day. Each morning, after breakfast I read the Bible aloud. Our studies always consist of at least 1 read aloud whether it is history, science or English. Each night I read 15 min to each child from their chosen chapter book.

  6. I look forward to this time.
    It brings peace, and calm, and quiet….all while filling sweet little minds with goodness.
    We are currently reading the Narnia series! Also, if I don’t have the time for a full chapter – I will grab a picture book from the library pile and head to the porch for a quick read.
    Sweet inspiration for me today….to keep going! Thank you! Kind Blessings, Kate 🙂
    Kate’s latest post: A Boy in the Morning

  7. Michelle O. says:

    I just wanted to share what we do in case it provides an idea for others 🙂
    We have four kids, 2 boys, 2 girls: 14, 12, 6.5, 5. As you can see those are big differences in interest but I’ve always been really convicted about reading aloud to them and encouraging them to read on their own.
    This is what works for us:
    5 yr old boy – I have the other three kids read at least 5 board books each day to him, plus I read him a story at bedtime (and as opportunity presents itself throughout the day).
    6.5 yr old girl: at Quiet Time 1-3pm she listens to an audiobook while colouring; I read a chapter to her before her bedtime (currently Life with Lily).
    12 yr old boy: 5 pages before bed (just finished Chronicles of Narnia and currently reading The Hobbit).
    14 yr old girl: she is a voracious reader on her own, but I’ve started reading 5 minutes out loud at the beginning of dinnertime (Day 66 – yay!) (currently reading Farmer Boy as it has to appeal to everyone) and I can see she loves to listen, too.
    I also have a scheduled Reading Time in the house from 5-6pm.
    Honestly, this sounds like a lot but it doesn’t feel like it as we go about our day 🙂
    Also, I wanted to mention that I’m aware of making sure the children see ME reading a book sometimes throughout the day (or I just talk about the book I’m reading as I try to get a chapter in before I turn out the light for myself).

  8. And it seems hard to believe that anyone could limit it to just five minutes a day! Once you begin in a regular fashion, I dare you to stop at five minutes! If we are on a book the kids and I are really into, we generally read a chapter or two at lunch (depending on the length), then another one at bedtime.
    April’s latest post: Easter Sunday

  9. I love reading aloud to my kids. It’s my absolute favorite time of the day and it happens several times throughout the day. In our normal routine we have a morning slot of read-aloud, lunch is (usually) a read aloud time, and then typically we have a bedtime read aloud. This is helpful because it’s broken up and while one of those times often gets skipped , it’s fairly rare that all of them will so some reading is happening every day!
    Love these tips, especially dropping a book that isn’t a good fit. Too many good ones to waste your time on something you and your kids aren’t connecting to.
    Johanna’s latest post: Snapshot of life #2

  10. This is timely encouragement. I used to this when my older two were preschool and early elementary age. The Lord has led us to put our middle two in a Spanish immersion school and the 10 and 2 year old are home. So we’ve lost the reading aloud habit and I’m determined to get it back this summer. Thanks for the 100 day check off list!

    My biggest question is finding the right books for all our different ages and personalities. My 10 year old is a voracious reader and has already read some of the books I intended to read aloud and doesn’t want to join us for a book she already knows. And my just turned 6 year old is EXTREMELY sensitive to ANYTHING scary or ANY stories of children without parents. DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY CHILDREN’S BOOKS INVOLVED DEAD, DYING, OR ABSENT PARENTS?!

    I’ve been dreaming of the day I could read The Chronicles of Narnia to my children and twice now we haven’t been able to get past the first chapter without fear and tears. It has definitely taken the wind out of my sails.

    And then there have been books that just haven’t drawn us in. Lots of people had recommended The Great Brain and we read around 30 pages and were all kind of “Womp Womp” about it. So we didn’t have much desire to go forward. Another “wind out of our sails” moment. And then, we have a toddler…

    Not trying to complain, but being realistic about the challenges to reading aloud. I am committed to doing it this summer, just praying for the right books to engage and lead us all in to this wonderful family time!
    melanie’s latest post: The Evolution of God’s Presence

  11. Sarah,
    You’ve hit on something that is experiencing a revival in our country! The reading aloud tradition is an important one. I work with a company that believes in the power of reading aloud – whole-heartedly – and works to ensure parents and children have the best books to do that. No dreadful feelings before Read Aloud time! They also carry a book called The Read-Aloud Handbook, which I have used in literacy-help talks to moms’ groups! I love how you broke this down so simply, and manageably. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I will definitely cite your blog in the future. Happy Reading!
    – Wendy Dykema, Usborne Happy

  12. I have just started reading aloud to our 5 children daily. They absolutely love it, and I am enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would :-). When I think I’m done each day, I ask, “Who is up for another chapter?” Our 10 year old son is always the one to jump up and down and be the one to be up for it, while the others have had enough.

    I have found that having a separate read aloud time with him from a book we are working through together is a really great solution. Seeing the special time my son and I share doing this, my 13 year old daughter has now also requested that we start our own read aloud time with a book she is interested in reading.

    While this may be a challenge time-wise (reading a separate book with individual children), I am finding that it is invaluable quality time and attention, and is drawing us closer together. A worthwhile investment!

    I love the way the post is so realistic for busy moms, encouraging even 5 minutes a day!

    Thank you so much. I have greatly benefitted from these words!

    Blessings 🙂
    Tehila’s latest post: For Every Woman, Wife, Mom, and Homemaker: The Ultimate Bundle!

  13. We read bible stories at breakfast and quite often poetry at lunchtime. I find the act of sitting down to a meal at the table is a way of having a captive audience! We also read on and off through the day when they request a book or if I think we need some calming cosy time. We also read at bedtime every night for about 15 minutes or more. On top of this much of our schooling is reading living books. A whole lot of reading going on here!

  14. I love the idea of pegging it so it gets done daily. We usually read aloud later in the afternoon after school is done, so it’s “pegged” in a way before the electronics come out. But this idea might just work for the toddler who’s not as interested in sitting through long chapters of Narnia.
    Purva Brown’s latest post: Winning at Homeschooling: It’s Not Enough to Plan – You Must Also Prep

  15. Well this article just confirmed why I was feeling so refreshed ever since I started reading aloud to myself one psalm and one proverb in the bible everyday so today I decided to check out the importance of reading aloud and that is how i found myself here I am so impressed by this article. I was never read to as a child but I live alone now and I am loving reading aloud poems and the bible never ha e thought about other books so now I know my next adventure thank you!

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