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reading with kids (how to make it easier for everyone!)

January 29, 2020

Some of you already know, we have 4 kiddos ages 4, 7, 9, and 13.  I wish I could tell you that I read with all 4 of them every day, but honestly, I do not.  Our oldest, 13 does all of her reading on her own, but I know I should still be reading with her ocasionally.  Not because she isn't capable.  She's an amazing reader.  But we should definitely be reading things together about teenage girls and growing up.  If you have suggestions, send them my way! 


Carly, who is 9, is doing a 40 book challenge for 4th grade. It's not mandatory, unless you happen to be a teacher's kid, and then it kinda is.  Lucky for her, she likes to read, so it's not too big of a deal. 


Lukey is 7 and he LOVES to read and be read to.  Right now, I am reading the book  "Brown Girl Dreaming" with Carly and he and Mike are reading books from the "Who was---?" series. The just finished the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and I think they have moved on to  Huckleberry Finn. 


Ella only goes to school for half a day, so her reading time happens right after school, when she is the only kiddo at home. We always read a few books, listen to nursery rhymes, work puzzles, play games, etc.  If you need ideas on prepping a kiddo for kindergarten, ask me! I have so many fun things that we do and it is one of my favorite Seasons of life! (So far!)


Anywho, I always want reading to be fun for our kids.  I almost always let them pick their own books. Part of Carly's 40 book challenge is to read a variety of genres, which is good, otherwise she'd still be stuck on "I Survived....." and "Who Was_____?"  So, I've been helping her find books to meet all of the genre categories, but other than that, they all choose what they want to read.  


This is my biggest tip for reading with kiddos, any age or stage.    I read a page.  They read a page.   We almost always go back and forth and back and forth until the book is finished.


This is why.


I think it is so important for them to hear what good reading sounds like.  When I read, they get to hear how it "should" sound.  I'm reading poetry with Carly right now.  You should pause briefly at the ends of the lines, at commas, punctuation, etc.  She is such a fast reader, she can lose the meaning by speeding through.  My reading to her sets the pace, and shows how it should sound.  Not perfect by any means, but close.  


Same for little kids.  Sometimes they read so slowly that you cannot hear the rhymes. (Like when reading Dr. Suess!)   When I am reading my page, they can hear the rhyme, and try to read in such a way that they can hear the rhyme on their page as well.  It may mean that I read their page too when they finish, just so they can hear it.  


If I am reading a picture book, I always try to sit on the left and I read the left pages so that they can look at the pictures while I am reading.   Then, when we get to the right side, they can continue reading and they've had time to absorb the pictures, where they will usually find a lot of clues to help them read their page.  


With really small children, you'd want to go through and look at all the pictures first, talking about them, getting their minds ready to read the book.


Also, let's be honest, reading with new or beginning readers can feel brutal. It can be a very slow, frustrating, lengthy process that you do not want to have to repeat, day after day after day! Am I right, or am I right????  If I just sit and listen to them read, sometimes it's really hard to get through a book.  I lose focus.  I start thinking about what I'm making for dinner or what chores I need to do next, totally missing all the ways that I could be helpful to them as a reader! (How can I ask good questions if I'm not paying attention? How can I hear mistakes if I am not really listening?)  If I read too, it helps me stay focused and engaged, which means I am likely to come back, night after night, to finish a longer book!  And that is the actually be engaged and want to finish the book!?!?! 


If I am reading with my 7 year old, taking turns means that we can get to the end before his attention span runs out.  Or that we can enjoy multiple books before he's ready for a break.  


I know "homework" often gives times, but we never ever look at the clock.  I don't have them double their reading time since I do "half" of the reading. Usually they read with Mike or me, and then again at night on their own.  That's how they  fall asleep on school nights.  


Honestly, I'd rather they read less time each day, but be consistent about reading with them, than make them do all of the reading and we both not enjoy the learning process.  Chances are, if you do not enjoy sitting and listening to them read, you are not going to be motivated to do it regularly.  Or create a life-long reader! Which is the goal! 


I also try not to over-correct.  If they are engaged in the book, and if it is not too hard or too easy, they probably will be able to hear their mistake and self-correct.  Make sure you are giving them time to correct on their own. If not, you can gently help out, but always give them a chance to TRY the words!  If they mispronounce, I'll say, "Good try!" and then say the word the correct way.  Sometimes, I'll say, "I'm not sure, let's ask dad."  It is good for them to see that we aren't perfect readers either. AND that we are always learning too!


I always like to ask questions along the way.  The book that Carly and I are reading takes place in the 50s and 60s.  Honestly, I am learning so much reading it with her.  We talk a lot as we go, making sure that she is understanding.  Last night I asked her a question and she said, "I wasn't paying attention.  Can I reread that?"


 "Sure! I have to re-read sometimes too!"   


Give grace when you need to! Let them reread if they zoned out for a minute.  Remember, you probably have to occasionally lost focus too!


Be sure to ask some questions.  If your kids know that you are going to ask, they'll likely pay better attention to the book.  If you aren't sometimes reading books together, its going to be hard for you to know how they are doing and where they could use some help!  If you are like us, you can divide and conquer or you can say, for the next few weeks, I'm reading with one kiddo.  When we are finished, I can read with another kiddo at bedtime.  Or, if you can divide up your day, you can read with different kids at different times. 


Find a way to enjoy it, otherwise, you are not going to make it happen! 


Teaching 4 kids of my own to read, plus countless others when I was an actual teacher, I could talk/type on this subject ALL day long!  I would definitely NOT call myself an expert, but I have been doing this with our 4 kids for years, and they are all great readers. (Well, not the 4 year old, but she is on her way!) 


I'll try to write about that another day! 


So, that's it!  Most kids should be able to read books on their own!  And they should!  Even 3 or 4 year olds can make up great stories on their own based on pictures!  But for YOU, when YOU are reading with your kiddos, I think it's okay to read together. (A page for me, a page for you!)  It makes the process flow so much more smoothly, will build great memories, and can be such a fun way to learn new things together!   



You'll likely have so much more JOY in the Chaos of teaching your little ones to read! 


**** I should add that sometimes, I do ALL of the reading!!! They can just sit and listen to the whole book!  Little kids in particular should be read to a ton, just taking in the words and pictures. It's okay for older kids to read a lot of books all on their own.  













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