Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things
When my children were younger, we read together every night.
I worked long shifts and was away from them for most of the day. Reading was our time together. It transitioned my boys to bed.
It was one of the sweetest parts of our day.
Then, I stopped working and we started homeschooling.
I was determined to do it “right.” I spent tons of time learning about all the benefits of reading aloud to my boys. The more I learned, the more pressure I felt.
The lists of classics and required books for each grade level made me feel like a failure.
My oldest son LOVED it when I read him a history textbook, and my youngest requested a very well worn copy of a Scooby Doo Mystery every single night for a year. I felt shame over not reading the “right” books.
“Twaddle” was a word I had never even heard of, until it already seemed like it was too late.
But I believed it was important, so I pressed on, determined we would be read-aloud champions.
And it was no longer fun. It was now a ‘thing.’ It was a requirement. It was what a good mom should do.
My first major stumbling block came with my oldest.
When I tried to transition him to more classical fiction, he balked. He loves non-fiction. Having high functioning autism may be a part of this, but I am the same way.
I prefer reading books that are actionable and practical – but never mind preference, this was about what’s best. I pressed on.
I required. I pressured. I scheduled time.
And then we found out that my youngest has dyslexia. Reading aloud became an absolute necessity for him to learn anything at all. Reading aloud math, history, science and geography every single day made reading for pleasure with him a thing of the past. Even bedtime became a read-aloud disaster.
More pressure. More requirement. More feeling like a read-aloud failure.
Finally, in total defeat, I decided to let it go. I figured we just weren’t the read-aloud family. We weren’t going to snuggle up for tea every afternoon and pull out Narnia, or have sweet times cuddling at bedtime with my sons begging for just one more chapter.
I gave up and gave in.
I truly believed I had failed to provide my children a solid foundation in character development, imaginary play, and overall learning (because I can be a little dramatic, yes, but the sense of failure was real).
Then one day, my husband mentioned to my oldest that he would like to listen to the Percy Jackson books on audio with him. My son had been fascinated a few years prior with this book series. Although it’s fiction, it has a ton of history mixed in, which worked well with his nonfiction mind.
Nearly every night since, he and my husband have gone on a drive while I get his little brother to bed. They listen to a fictional book together, make jokes about the characters, and discuss any issues that come up.
They both genuinely enjoy it.
It wasn’t long before my youngest felt left out, and asked for the same thing. So he and my husband picked out a book to listen to, just the two of them, when they are alone in the car together. It’s their own thing, and it’s a big deal to my little guy.
Finally, one day, it occurred to me that this is reading aloud. It also occurred to me that I was missing out.
At my request, the boys picked out a book they thought they might both enjoy. We began to listen to it every single time the three of us were all in the car together.
Seven chapter books later, we are still going strong. Some days, I even load them in the car, get ice cream, and drive around – just to listen to the book and have them both settled and calm.
It’s become a beautiful part of our day.
What has surprised me is that the more they have both become accustomed to listening and engaging with the stories in the car, the easier it has been to tackle reading aloud at home.
Granted, for my oldest, it means we read in his bed together, and you can often find me reading to my youngest at the park, or in the bathroom while he takes a long bath. (Still no snuggles on the couch with tea, but it works!)
We are reading together. More importantly, we are enjoying it.
If you feel like a read-aloud slacker, I want to encourage you. Yes, reading aloud is a good thing. But it is not a measure of you as a mom. It is not the key to the homeschooling kingdom. Your children will not be criminals if you do not have a set read aloud routine.
And, keep trying. Find the ways that work best for your children, and for you.
Like anything else in homeschooling, you might have to figure out how to make reading aloud your own.
That, and adding ice cream to the mix never hurts.
What kinds of creative ways have you found to make reading aloud a part of your family life?