On Family Read Alouds

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in my dad’s or grandpa’s laps and having them read me stories. We explored Busytown, journeyed through Narnia, and cheered on Christian as he traveled the paths of pilgrims. I am so thankful that a love of reading and the discovery of adventure was instilled in me from an early age.

Earlier this year, I realized how little I read to my boys now that they all can read independently. Selfishly, I took easy street and allowed them to explore their own worlds of fiction, but I realized I missed the time we used to spend together reading. I knew the benefits of reading aloud and I knew the calming effect that accompanies bedtime stories. So I decided to try something different and re-incorporate reading each night right before turning out the lights. The boys snuggled in their beds, the family devotion had been read, and all the prayers had been said. Then I would read a couple chapters as their bodies settled and prepared for sleep. 

This has become one of my favorite times of day. I wasn’t sure if the age gap between the oldest and youngest would make the book choice difficult, but so far there hasn’t been a book that hasn’t held their interest. We have read some much shorter books, like The Fantastic Mr. Fox and also some that are longer and require some discussion, like The Secret Garden. I try to choose books the boys might not gravitate to on their own and reserve certain books for their independent reads, like The Magic Treehouse or Harry Potter series. 

Not only has this proven to be rich time spent together, but also it has helped reframe our bedtime routine from chaotic to calm. Bedtime used to be one of our worst times of day. The simple steps of brushing teeth, getting in pjs, and then getting in bed always seemed to drag on with extra stops added along the way. I would get frustrated and would end up huffing, “Good night,” while planting rough kisses on their foreheads. Not ideal. Now we all look forward to journeying through these stories together. 

Sometimes we are able to read for a half hour, but sometimes we only read for 15 minutes before we’re all too tired to continue. But every word draws us together in a shared experience and settles our minds as we wind down from the day. We adjusted our bedtime routine so the lights are still going out at the same time as before, but how we use those last 15-30 minutes of the night really has added a peace to the end of our day. 

I am unsure how long we will continue to read aloud and some changes may need to be made when the boys no longer share a room or when bedtimes are adjusted. But for now, I am soaking up every minute of storytime and hopefully sharing a love for literature and reading with my children. 

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