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.


    Something Good, Something True

    Something Good, Something True

    Last month in the throes of early-January “let’s organize all the things,” I decided the time had come to sort through the books on my shelves. I needed to decide what to keep, what to send on its way. I struggle with the “send on its way” part as I love books. I love the smell of books, the way they creak when you open them. I love the different textures of covers, jackets, and pages. I like to run my index finger along the type, to feel the words beneath the tip of my finger.

    As such, deciding to get rid of books feels a bit daunting. I find myself saying “but” a lot when I sort through books.

    But I bought this book when I was going through that thing.
    But someone gifts me this book.
    But I learned that one minuscule thing from this book that I don’t need to reference to remember that thing.

    On and on.

    I ended up keeping more books than I probably should, but I have boxes and stacks of books ready to go to new homes starting next week. I’ll be calling the library to see if they need any books for their book sale. I have some other ideas. But the books need to go so I can finish the corner of the office where they’re currently sitting.

    I now find myself tasked with curating two specific bookshelves. I want to put my favorite fiction on one shelf, and “important books to me” on a second shelf. I currently have one work of fiction on that second shelf, and I think it might stay there. There’s some poetry, a book about imperfection, one about creativity, one full of writing prompts, two coloring books, a parenting book I don’t hate, a memoir, three childhood books, and a few others. The books share space with some important keepsakes from my friends; a framed photo of me holding my daughter on her first birthday graces the shelf as well. Then my abundant number of journals. Because they’re important books, too.

    As for what’s going to end up on the fiction shelf, I don’t know. It currently holds a mish-mosh as the books I’m keeping needed to be placed somewhere. Looking now, I don’t think those books rank as favorites. I can think of a few I’d like to add: Girl In Translation, The Fault in Our Stars, maybe my second copy of The Time Traveler’s Wife, as the hardback, first edition is on my Important to Me shelf.

    The real struggle is that I kept more non-fiction than fiction. I don’t know what that says, what it means. I also kept a large number of adoption related books, memoir and non-fiction self-help-y and anthology and one in which I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements; none of these books would make it to a favorite shelf.

    Maybe my favorite fiction shelf will turn into a favorite non-fiction and fiction shelf. Maybe I need to purchase some books which I’ve lost over the years or borrowed from the library as they technically belong on a favorite fiction shelf. Can I just say, We Were Liars? Indeed.

    Whatever the case, I’m really enjoying running my fingers over covers and type, remembering why I read the book in the first place, and thinking about who I am now in comparison to who I was at that time. The books we love and keep tell a story about our lives; I’ll be interested to see what the books I purchase and keep from this phase of my life say someday.

    Hopefully something good, something true.