When school is in session, the days seem to fill up and fly by. Our week is a whirlwind of music lessons, Girl Scout meetings, riding, theater and swimming. There are play dates, projects, and pediatrician’s visits. There are teeth to be straightened, eyes to be checked, and new shoes to be bought, over and over and over again. I’ve got 3 girls to bathe or shower, brush and blow dry. There are instruments to practice and chores to complete and – oh yeah – homework.
Plus, I don’t know about your children, but mine become ravenous monsters after school. They consume massive snacks, followed by dinner, followed by bedtime cereal and milk, all in the space of 5 hours. That takes time. And energy.
Sometimes, in the midst of all the activity, I do wonder how to find time to read with my kids.
I know you do, too.
I know there are nights you look at that reading log your kid’s teacher sends home and wonder, “How bad is it if I lie about this just for tonight?”
I hate to set a bad example for my kids when it comes to honesty – but there are nights I’ve fudged the times on those sheets. And there have been weeks when my daughter spent 2 hours reading Sunday night and I let her spread those pages out across four days on the reading log. Because the log isn’t really what’s important.
(Oooh, somebody is mad at me right now!)
What IS important is making sure children learn the importance of reading, the skills of literacy, and the ENJOYMENT of reading – alone and together – and how that fits into a busy lifestyle.
Because, let’s face it. We’ve got busy lifestyles. And that’s not likely to change in our children’s lifetime.
So when do we do it?
- Rise and Read: If getting up 15 minutes earlier to read with your child doesn’t immediately appeal – I understand completely. But think of all the people who start their day with the paper (or the NY Times online edition) and start building the next generation of news readers. For a lot of families, early morning is one of the few chances for working parents to connect with the kids. Make time for Dad to read the comics, sports, or travel section with your child. Maybe mom and tween like to catch up on celebrity gossip together? There’s no reason you can’t sit at the table together and take turns reading aloud as you eat breakfast. Family time AND one thing off your to-do-list before the school day even starts? Awesome!
- On the Way: Declare the 20 minute drive to the soccer fields a talking and technology-free time. Make sure there are books or magazines stuffed into the seat back pockets and let them read their way to the game. Bonus cool-parent-points if you picked up some great nonfiction about your child’s favorite team or player. For a group of kids 8 and up, how about having them take turns reading a Choose-Your-Own Adventure aloud, or filling in and reading Mad Libs to each other? (For more car ideas, check out my Reading Road trip post.)
- In the Can: Need I say more? Seriously? If you really need me to say more, you can click this here link to a post called Bathroom Literacy.
- While You Wait: There are still magazines at the doctor’s office, right? Make good use of otherwise wasted time and get in some reading. I also bring books or fun cards like those from BrainQuest along if I know I’ll be waiting with one child while another is in a lesson.
- Make a Trade: Show your kids how important reading really is to you. Make a deal that they can skip a chore one night a week if they replace it with 15 minutes of reading!
- Burn the Midnight Oil: Okay, maybe more like the 9:30 oil. Most kids think they’ve won some epic childhood battle if they’ve gotten to stay up past their bedtime. So give the OK to 15 or 20 extra minutes – as long as it’s spent reading in bed. You may find them asking for a few more minutes to finish their chapter.
- Dinner Out: Younger kids will get a kick just reading the kids’ menu aloud with you, but you may need to bring along a book for older kids – or pull up an interesting article on your phone – while you wait for your food to arrive.
- Partner Up!: Ask older kids to read aloud to younger siblings – and then have little ones return the favor. You can prep dinner, pack lunches or fold laundry while listening in. For more on using reading partners, click here.
- Other Caregivers: Make sure your kids’ babysitters, grandparents, and after-care staff know you value reading time. It takes a village to raise a reader!
- Re-prioritize: There comes a point when we all have to look at our choices and decide how to best use our time. If you can’t consistently make time for quality reading, I’d say that your family needs to chat about priorities. I can’t emphasize enough how important literacy is for school and future success. School can’t and won’t do it all for us – as parents, we have to make choices that reflect our values. If you value literacy, you’ll find a way!
How do you make reading fit into your busy schedule? I’d love to share your ideas with others!