6 Ways to Making Reading with Kids Even More Fun

published Apr 16, 2022
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Playroom with painted mural with kids names, tiger, toucan, sloth, monkey. Bookshelf with books arranged by color. kids play kitchen and wood slide
Credit: Hannah Brooke Photography

Ever since I read Jim Trelease’s seminal book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, reading aloud regularly to my children has been one of my biggest day-to-day goals as a mother. 

The benefits of reading aloud to children are indisputable. From building robust vocabularies, improving emotional intelligence; increasing attention spans when kids are young to providing opportunities to discuss important topics when kids are older, reading aloud creates space for learning and growing. In addition, reading aloud provides unique bonding experiences. 

Reading aloud is clearly a really big deal, and many of us do it. But as kids get older and evenings are crowded out by activities, reading aloud isn’t as easy to do. 

But I’m unwilling to let go of shared reading experiences with my kids, so I’ve come up with a few ways to keep reading aloud part of our shared family experience:

Listen to audiobooks in the car.  

As kids get older, car time increases. Rather than fight against this new chauffeur role, embrace it as a chance not only to talk, but to “read aloud” together. Choose an audiobook and play it regularly during drives. Right now, I have one that I’m listening to with my oldest daughter when we go places together (Stella By Starlight), one I’m listening to with my older two boys when I’m ferrying them to soccer practices (Bud Not Buddy), and one for the little ones (Ribsy). 

Make reading aloud a part of your day. 

At the end of the day, after the whole dinner-cleanup-bath charade, parents don’t have the patience or energy to round everyone up for another activity. So instead of hauling out the board games or forcing kids into doing something they don’t want to, establish that family time is storytime. At our house, when we’re in a good read-aloud groove, the big kids know to meet in the living room at 8:15. 

Use audiobooks instead of reading stories aloud yourself. 

Yes, I love the thought of my mother-voice reading out loud to my children. But this very nice thought is often actually a hurdle to read-aloud time happening because (did I already mention this?) I’m tired at the end of the day! Opting for an audiobook means I can enjoy the book with my children without having to talk. It also helps cut down on my frustration if they aren’t perfectly still and quiet because I don’t feel as if I’m being personally disregarded. I have an Audible subscription but I also regularly check out audiobooks through the library with the Libby app. Plus, the audiobook authors are paid to be really good at their jobs, so the exciting voices and background music can keep kids captivated.

Keep a running list of audiobooks. 

To keep your family in the habit, have a list of audiobooks you’d like to listen to with your kids. This fills the gap that comes with the dreaded book hangover where you just don’t know what to read next. Having something in the queue keeps the momentum going and the enthusiasm high. Let your kids contribute to the list too, so they can get excited about what comes next. Apps like Goodreads, your library wish lists, or even a simple note on the phone all do the trick.

Credit: Anna Spaller

Allow quiet activities during read-aloud time. 

Having your kids color or do Perler beads or another quiet activity keeps them physically occupied while they listen. This cuts down drastically on fidgeting and sibling squabbles over where feet are on the couch, kids poking each other, etc. I even enjoy doing my own activity (lately it’s embroidery) while we listen to our audiobook together. Read-aloud guru and author of The Read-Aloud Family, Sarah Mackenzie suggests having a spot for each child’s current read-aloud quiet activity, so they can easily grab their project for read-aloud time. 

Enjoy book “celebrations.” 

This can be as simple or elaborate as you want. You could do a themed party or simply enjoy watching the movie together. We had our own version of a book club with warm chocolate chip cookies after we finished The Wizard of Oz, we made a list of 10 things about someone special after we finished Because of Winn Dixie (the main character did this in the book), and we enjoyed the movie version of Bridge to Terabithia after we finished that book. Having a fun “prize” at the end of each book keeps the excitement alive and gives even more positive associations with reading.