Why reading aloud to your children is NOT important

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The devil is sometimes in the details.

Whenever I tell someone that I read to my kids every night - I tend to keep a small secret to myself.

It's not whether you do it that matters. It's mostly about how you do it.

If your read aloud sessions are not constantly evolving - ask yourself, are you just going through the motions?

Before I explain why reading aloud to your children is not important, let me give you some tips how to capture the listener's imagination and to pull them deeper into the read aloud sessions.

1. Never use reading aloud as a bargaining chip during the day

Reading - 57/365 - 26 February 2009
Whatever happens during the day, I never threaten to skip reading that night or to "punish" my kids by cutting back on reading. Reading is a constant in their lives and as soon as I start using it as a bargaining chip, they will turn it against me.

2. I never read to my kids just to get them to sleep

Reading time is reading time.

Kids need sleep, I know. I know they are sleep deprived.

You also want some free time for yourself in the evenings, I get it.

But - beware of turning reading time into "I-secretly-want-you-to-fall-asleep" time. They will detect your ulterior motive and it will eventually deteriorate the quality of your joint read aloud time. Better turn off the TV half an hour earlier in order to speed up things.

Child_with_red_hair_readingImage via Wikipedia
My twins expect reading time to be (intellectually) stimulating, instead of just a hypnotic seance based on one or two staple books that get them to sleep as fast as possible.

3. Every evening, I ask my kids what do they want to read tonight

Any suggestions I get from my kids - are included in the reading list for the night. Sometimes they feel like listening to an almost wordless picture book, sometimes to a chapter book without illustrations.

I try to combine several types of books every night, while taking onboard all their suggestions. Also, try to involve them (if possible) in the purchasing process and/or take them to the library. The read aloud stage is just the end of a process that started much earlier during book selection.

4. Vary your daily book choices, but come back to old favourites.

Kids love variety, some parents say. ["Every day I read a different children's book to my little precious"].

Others insist that their kids love only the stories they know by heart. ["My little John/Jane adores it when I read and re-read Goodnight Moon every single night"].

Well - I say - give them both!

I believe in both approaches - when they are combined. Children need new challenges, either in the form of new books or a return to an old favourite after several weeks/months. Don't feed them only rice, but you also don't have to pick them a new type of fruit every day.

5. Stop means stop!
Reading Children´s Corner

When any of my kids tells me to stop reading a book and switch to a different one - I immediately do it.

No questions asked.

I don't believe in force-feeding books, regardless of the number of medals or prizes it received.

Some evenings they enjoy reading Mercy Watson, but other evenings they can't stand the porcine wonder.

I respect that.To be truthful, often I feel the same. (sorry Mercy!).

Ah yes, before I forget - why do I believe that reading aloud to kids is not important?

It's reading aloud with them that really counts. Don't lose them along the way.

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