Are you looking for an easy way to bond with your family while also creating a habit of reading or increasing literacy skills?
If you’ve been following me on social media for a while, you may have heard me mention our monthly family read aloud before. In this post, I’ll explain why and how we started doing this in our family.
Why We Started
I decided to start having monthly family read aloud time about three and half years ago when my kids began their transition from picture books to early chapter books. Although both kids could read independently on their own, I wanted to keep the tradition of reading aloud during story time. I allowed the kids to choose an early chapter book to read independently, but I chose a longer middle-grade novel for us to read as a family over the course of a month. After a while, this became a habit and turned into our monthly family read aloud we still do today.
I also decided to start having monthly family read aloud time because I know how beneficial reading aloud is. Not only does reading aloud aid in language development, but it also allows children to improve their language skills. While children listen to adults read, they pick up correct word pronunciation, word usage, and proper grammar. Reading aloud can also enhance vocabulary and it allows kids to internalize correct sentence structure. Reading aloud with children can also help them become more fluent readers.
Our reading aloud time is also great for helping me to point out and discuss examples of compassion, kindness, perseverance, and optimism while reading. Last, but certainly not least, read-aloud time makes for excellent bonding time.
Reading aloud is a wonderful chance to share adventure, intrigue, and emotion—without having to leave the comfort of your home. And that is irreplaceable. Wouldn’t you agree?
Our Monthly Process
Note: In addition to our monthly read aloud chapter book, my kids also read other books independently for school or pleasure during the month.
Here are the basic steps we follow each month:
1. I choose the book of the month for our family to read. The books I choose are often middle-grade novels (for ages 8 – 12) that are borrowed from our local library. However, sometimes we read books we already own.
2. We each take turns reading either a chapter or a few pages at a time. It’s usually just me and the kids, but sometimes my husband will listen in if he’s sitting close by.
3. During our read aloud sessions, I have snacks and water nearby along with a few fidget toys to keep the kids’ hands busy while they listen.
4. After finishing the book, (it typically takes us about 2.5 to 3 weeks to finish a middle grade novel) we reflect and talk about the discussion questions.
A quick note regarding the discussion questions: If the book already has its own set of discussion questions online, we use those questions. If I can’t find any discussion questions to go along with the book, I’ll make them up on my own as we read. This usually looks like me making notes on my phone after our read aloud session is over each night. From my notes, I can make up my own set of discussion questions. I aim to make most of our questions open-ended questions to make discussion time more engaging.
5. Depending on the theme of the book, sometimes we do a craft activity or another type of activity to go along with the book. For example, after we read the early chapter book The Scrumptious Life of Azaleah Lane we baked cupcakes. After reading The Crossover, we visited the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA.
If establishing regular reading aloud time with your family is one of your reading goals this year, I’d recommend starting your own monthly family read aloud. My kids are close in age (15 months apart), so it works well for us to choose one book to focus on for the month. If you have children in different age groups, you may want to consider choosing one or more books to read per month. You’ll want to figure out what works best for you and your family if this is something you decide to do.
Starting this tradition came naturally for our family since I’ve been reading with my children since they were young. My hope is that my kids associate reading with happy memories as they continue to grow.
A few tips that may help get you started
1. Don’t overdo it at first. You might need to start with five to ten minutes of read-aloud time, and gradually extend the time until your children are able to maintain full attention for longer periods of time.
2. Have plenty of snacks and beverages nearby or within easy reach to snack on.
3. Scan or preview book selection of the month in advance when possible. This helps ensure there isn’t any inappropriate language in the book. I take full advantage of the website Common Sense to check my books prior to choosing them. I find their book reviews and summaries to be extremely helpful for choosing the best books to read.
4. Choose a consistent time to read each day. You can either choose to read in the morning, during lunch while the kids eat, for a quiet rest time in the afternoon, or before bed to help kids wind down.
5. If your kids get fidgety or have a tough time sitting still for extended periods of time during story time, incorporate fidget toys, coloring books or other hands-on activities to keep their hands busy.
6. Create a designated reading space. Make it a cozy space using pillows, blankets, or a favorite chair or couch to snuggle in.
7. Don’t be afraid to stop reading a book if it’s not working for your family. No one wants to read a boring book. Am I right?
My Favorite Read Aloud Resource
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is still my favorite resource when it comes to the topic of reading aloud. In this book, Trelease explains in plain English why reading aloud to your children matters. He tells you how to do it. And he even gives you suggestions for books to read. This book was my introduction to the importance of reading to children starting at an early age.
Your turn: Does your family already participate in monthly family read aloud time? Are you inspired to start this routine with your family? Feel free to share in the comments.
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