Reading with Kids Who Read on Their Own

Sometime around late fall, I realized I hadn’t read a book aloud to the boys in a hot minute. Lots of reading still took place daily in the house, but no one brought me a book and asked, “Will you read this to me?” Neither had I pulled one off the shelf and asked the boys to sit with me to listen to a story.

Always Reading, Just Not Necessarily with Me

The realization sat poorly with me, especially as I read the articles (and book) about the dad who read to his daughter for nine years straight. Reading to my sons and raising them to be readers (#raisingreaders!) always ranked high on my list of parenting goals, and while the boys read something (or lots of somethings) every single day, the lack of my involvement made me feel… sad.

And so, I formed a plan in my head to rectify the situation, and then I set it in motion.

  • 1. Read a small story to the boys each night. We have a bedtime book which features 365 stories, each dated, making for easy bedtime reading. No arguing over books, a quick bite of a story, many old fables and classics we haven’t really hit on. And easy. I decided to use this on days we found ourselves limited on time come bedtime. They’re quick, bite-sized stories, and the boys really seem to like the book. Thanks, old book from my childhood!

  • 2. Bring back storybooks. Both boys gravitate toward all things chapter book right now. LittleBrother fell in love with the newer Hardy Boys series geared toward beginning chapter book readers. BigBrother devours Pokemon books and a series about a sixth grade ninja. That’s all fine and dandy; I want them to read what they want to read. But one day when I went to the library by myself (oh, joyous day), I grabbed The Book with No Pictures. After the first read through, they asked me to read it every single day. Now I’m regularly seeking out new or fun picture books at the library to add some fun reading back into our daily life.

The Book with No Pictures
The boys tricked their Daddy into reading The Book with No Pictures and laughed until they cried. If you haven’t read it to your children yet, please do.

  • 3. Read chapter books together again. In all of this thinking about our family reading, I realized LittleBrother was still very young the first time we read through the first Harry Potter book together. I asked if he might feel interested in reading it together again, and he said yes. I didn’t expect BigBrother would want to sit through the book again, but he joins us every evening. After we finish this book, we’ll take a Harry Potter break to read something else—likely a book they wouldn’t choose on their own—and then we’ll jump back in with book two.

  • 4. We brought back library day. During the summer and into early fall, we visited the library once a week. Doing so allowed the books to return already finished books and grab new books. (It also helped me avoid (many) fines.) We fell out of this routine as school and soccer schedules kept us busy. I decided to bring it back to our Tuesday schedule, and it’s been great. We see a lot of books come and go now, and I’m even back to reading a high volume. It feels great.

Hooray for the Library!
When we get to the library, they head to the kids’ section, pick something off the new shelf, find some favorites, and sit down to immediately start reading their picks. They’re awesome.

  • 5. I let them read to me more often. This means I hear a lot about Pokemon, or sometimes a thousand and twelve jokes followed up with a trillion facts from the Guiness Book of World Records. But they like reading to me, so I encourage it.

  • They Got Jokes
    They’re reading jokes to me here. I also laughed so hard I cried.

    I feel much better since I got more involved in the boys’ reading process again. I don’t ever limit what they choose at the library; they can read what they want to read. But by sticking myself back in the reading process, I feel like we’re all getting some much needed time together, reading more than we would individually, and reading books we wouldn’t necessarily choose on our own but enjoy greatly.

    This refocus fits in perfectly with a quote from the NEA’s Read Across America campaign, which is in full swing this week for Dr. Seuss’ birthday. (PS: I wrote about Dr. Seuss’ birthday a few years ago, but we didn’t have green eggs and ham yesterday. Sad!) Here’s the quote:

    “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”

    I need to remember that my boys want me to read with them even though they can read on their own. They want my presence, they want my book experience, they want time together. I will always work hard to find time and ways to give them those things.


    Disclosure: This post reflects a collaboration with the National Education Association’s Read Across America campaign. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own.

    4 thoughts on “Reading with Kids Who Read on Their Own

    1. this makes me so happy for you! my mom and i read to each other all the time when i was young. when i got to high school i found that i couldn’t get through shakespeare on my own, so i read to mom and to this day shakespeare is high on my list of favorite things. as an adult mom would read to me over the phone (mostly stories from reader’s digest or things she cut out from the newspaper in the hopes that i would get something from it. mom reading to me never got old and never felt wrong, regardless of my age. hope your boys continue to love the quality time with you.

    2. Charlie still asks me to read to him periodically. Usually it is a book he does not want to read but I picked out for him. I want Charlie to try a variety of books besides the Wimpy Kid series.

      I need to institute a library day again.

    3. I really appreciate these ideas. I am constantly falling short of my own expectations in this area, especially since I had such a long stretch of one on one reading time with my oldest (we read the last of the Harry Potter books out loud to each other when she was in middle school when they came out because it was “tradition”). Part of it is that I can’t figure out how to fit in read aloud time with five kids so close in age, but at such different comprehension/maturity levels. I’m constantly swing back and forth between trying to read as a group while wishing I had time to read individually. As I was reading this though, it occurred to me that every selection doesn’t have to fit each kid and maybe I just need to accept that it is what it is. By mixing things up with a variety of ideas, I can hit most of the kids most of the time and that is better than the sporadic job I usually do. Our school is currently doing a “One School, One Book” program and my kids are really looking forward to it each night. I need to plan ahead to keep the momentum going.

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