Family read alouds have been the highlight of my homeschooling. It's so fun to be able to share a good book with your family. It hasn't always been this way.
I remember when we first started homeschooling and I would get so frustrated when the kids would not sit still. Johnny Tremain was our first read aloud failure. I loved the book, and I so wanted the kids to love it as much as I did, however, they were 10, 6 and 4, and the book was way too long for their tiny attention spans.
I've learned since then, that just like any skill you want your kids to possess, listening quietly to a good book requires cultivating. When you start, don't expect your kids to sit for hours at a time. Start with ten minutes every day. As they get better at sitting still, you can stretch their attention spans.
There will always be challenges in learning a new skill, but you can set yourself up for read aloud success with a few simple tricks. Here are some things that I've learned along the way that have boosted our family's love of reading good books together.
Family Read Alouds Helps
I expected my kids to want to sit and listen for hours, because I remember loving to sit and listen for hours. What I was remembering was the fruit of training, and not all of the times when I was wiggly, inattentive, and bored. If you anticipate the wiggles, then counteract those distractions with quiet activities. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Thinking Putty
Similar to play-dough, Thinking Putty is an awesome fidget tool to keep little hands busy while listening to stories. I was amazed how this simple little tool, when reserved for family read aloud time, motivated sitting still and quiet playing. You'd be amazed at how much they take in even when it seems they're not listening to anything!
I think every homeschool should have buckets of LEGOs. These little building toys encourage so much creativity and critical thinking. In the beginning, my kids would just play for fun with the LEGOs while I read. As they got older, they loved building what we were reading about. What once was a way to encourage them to sit still for ten minutes, became a creative outlet for responding to a story. I loved seeing what they would create!
I do have to admit that sometimes the sound of digging through LEGOs was just too much for me to read over, and the thinking putty became over creative landing in their hair or in the carpet. When those moments came, I would resort to quiet sitting on the couch. Sometimes you do have to put your serious mom face on - even for something as lovely as family read alouds. However, I wouldn't make them sit beyond their limit. Fidget toys are awesome for this purpose.
It doesn't always have to be playtime during family read alouds. If there is a quiet piece of work that you'd like your kids to accomplish, and you can read to them while they're completing the work, then everyone is happy. I love having my kids work on handwriting. Classical Conversations Prescripts Cursive handwriting books are like a coloring book and a handwriting book all in one. They are a great tool for helping kids sit quietly and listen while you read.
5. Coloring Books/Paper
Depending on your child, coloring books or blank paper can be a simple and easy tool for keeping kids occupied during family read alouds. This doesn't just have to be for little kids. Sometimes your big kids need training too. Get them a great coloring book and some nice colored pencils and encourage them to join you in the read alouds. You're never too old to hear a great story.
Those are my five tips for getting your listeners to sit still for family read alouds. What do you do to keep your kids engaged in a good story?
This is the first post in my Read Aloud series. Be sure to catch the whole series:
- Family Read Alouds - Will You Sit Still? - Today
- Finding Time for Read Alouds - Wednesday
- Where Do I Find Good Books to Read Aloud? - Thursday
- Strauss Read Aloud History: The Good, the Fab, and the Delightful - Friday
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Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.