4 Ways to Increase Family Read Aloud Time

Photo of three young children sitting outside on a blue blanket, drinking out of plastic cups. The book, "Sarah, Plain and Tall" is opened next to them and is being read aloud by the mother, who is not in the photo.

Photo of a mother and three young children sitting on a carpeted bedroom floor. Two children are sitting in the mother's lap and one child is sitting in front of the mother. The mother has a book opened on her lap and all three children are looking at the book.National Family Literacy Month is an opportunity to celebrate and encourage caregivers reading to children and to spread awareness of the benefits that reading aloud can have on children. There is a plethora of research that has revealed the benefits of reading aloud with your children and the impact that it can have on not only their academic success, but on the bonds created between parent and child during read aloud times. When you sit down and read with your child, you are embarking on an adventure together, creating memories and gaining insight and perspective into the lives and experiences of others, all without ever leaving the comfort of your home (or wherever you are reading together). A love for reading is often developed at an early age and getting books into the hands of children, and their caregivers, is the first step in developing a lifelong enjoyment of reading. While many parents may already be aware of the numerous benefits of reading with their children, finding the time to do so can be a challenge. Once I had multiple children, I found that most days got away from me and I was rarely able to accomplish all that I had set out to do for that day. Over the years, I have learned that these four tips have allowed me to sneak in extra read aloud time with my children. 

1. Slip a book, or two, into your purse or diaper bag in preparation for appointments. This has been one super easy and convenient way to get in some extra reading minutes with my kids, when the time is usually otherwise wasted. Whether we are headed to a doctor/dentist appointment, oil change, or the DMV, I bring a book along. I have found that while sitting at these appointments, we are able to get a lot of reading time in and the time passes quicker than I expect. Recently, during a sick visit to the doctor with my daughter (and a subsequent pharmacy visit), we were able to read 5 chapters of The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis. The story time was a welcomed distraction for my daughter who temporarily forgot how poorly she felt, and also helped the time pass a little faster. With younger kiddos, I ask each child to pick out a few picture books to bring along and throw them into the diaper bag, or a little individual backpack that each child can carry. 

2. Leave a stack of books in your car. Setting up a little box with books, a bag of books, or just using the pockets in the back of the seats to hold books, is a great way to carry a selection of stories with you, wherever you go! Having books in the car will increase the likelihood of your children grabbing a book while on the road or out for the day. The books will also be readily available in the event you are waiting somewhere in a parked car, (looking at you, school pick up line) or at a location where you have the time to grab a book from the car and sit and read. There have been MANY soccer practices in which my kids and I have grabbed a couple of books out of the car and sat on the sidelines and read, while big sis practiced. If your kids are old enough, they can also grab a book in the car and look at the pictures or read while you are driving, getting in some independent reading time as well!

Photo of three young children sitting outside on a blue blanket, drinking out of plastic cups. The book, "Sarah, Plain and Tall" is opened next to them and is being read aloud by the mother, who is not in the photo.

3. Read aloud during snack time or tea time! This one takes a little more effort and time, but if your day allows for even an extra 20 minutes, setting up a tea time or snack time for your kids is a special treat. I have found that if I take a few minutes to set my children up with a snack and drink, they are more likely to sit and listen to a story while they are preoccupied with eating/drinking. If the weather permits, we like to take a blanket and our tea time outside, to enjoy the powerful trifecta of sunshine, snacks and a story!

4. Audiobooks! Oh, how I love audiobooks! Audiobooks are the solution to the, “I don’t have the ability/time/patience to sit down and read this book aloud” dilemma. While I personally love listening to audiobooks while completing chores and tasks around the home, I have found that putting them to work for my kids is just as great! Using the Libby app, I am able to borrow books from my local library or the DOD MWR Library. My favorite time to use audiobooks for my kids is in the car. I felt like I leveled up in parenting the first time I realized that all the time I spend in the car with my kids, can actually be used as more reading time! Whether we are on a roadtrip, or just making the 30 minute drive to gymnastics, I can connect my phone to the car stereo and put on an audiobook to listen to while we drive. We have completed many chapter books this way, and it gives me an opportunity to listen to the book as well, so that my kids and I can talk about the book later. Other ways I use audiobooks are while my kids are quietly working on an activity such as, playing with Legos, building blocks, puzzles or coloring. When your kids are engrossed in a quiet (or semi-quiet) activity, putting on an audiobook while they play is another easy way to get in more reading time. While children are keeping their hands busy with an activity, they are able to listen and focus well on a story that is being read aloud to them. I am often in the next room, cleaning or preparing dinner, and can listen along with them, if I still want to be able to share in the experience and chat about the book later.

Whether you are able to sit down and read for an hour a day with your kids, or are able to slip in a few minutes of reading here and there, books are a wonderful way to create special moments with your children that will last a lifetime.

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Amy Smith
Amy is married to her active duty Army husband and together, they have 5 children. Though Amy was an Air Force brat for part of her childhood, she considers Pensacola, Florida to be home. Before becoming a stay at home mom, she earned her M.Ed in Deaf Education and worked as a Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing. Amy is passionate about her faith, mothering, families and embracing the military lifestyle. She enjoys adventuring with her family, traveling, new experiences, cooking, listening to audiobooks, and trying to keep the chaos of her house under (somewhat) control. She and her family are currently stationed in the Midwest.