Read Aloud

Because of the crazy times, lots of people are suddenly home with their young children for extended and unexpected periods of time. I’m writing up a few general ideas I’ve learned over the years of being at home with one, two, three, and now four children. 

General idea number two…

Read Aloud. 

You don’t have textbooks, curriculum, flashcards, or workbooks. But you have a something wildly more powerful than any of that. Something that will increase their vocabulary, strengthen their listening comprehension, give you a shared language of characters, and all but guarantee that they will love books as adult. And if they love books, then they love learning, and (dusts hands) that’s the best it can get.

To begin, plan to read aloud for one hour. But aspire to two hours. You will get there sooner than you think. Pick a few books to move between within that hour. Books with long words and dense story lines that one can listen to while sprawled on the floor, staring at the cracks in the ceiling.

Books like Anne of Green Gables, Birchbark House, The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, The Laura Ingalls Series, The Penderwicks, Twenty-One Balloons, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, Dr. Dolittle, and My Father’s Dragon.*

After you read one chapter, ask “Should I read another chapter?” And they will likely surprise both of you by shouting,”Yes!”

But if they say no, move on to the next book and read a chapter of that. If you have a book of poetry, or Winnie-the-Pooh which is basically poetry,` read a few pages of that. If you have something really dense, like actual history like The Story of the World or Our Island Story, read one chapter and don’t expect more.

I like to read in the morning, right after breakfast. Morning energy is often a little wild, creative but not directed quite yet, and very cuddly. For whatever reason, in the morning, it’s easiest for all ages to find a comfortable place to sit and to listen for a few hours. After an hour or two, I get up and say something like, “Ho! I have to start lunch,” and walk off and the rest of the day begins.

If you have a child younger than age four in your group, there are a few things you can do to include them. 1: Read several illustrated books of their choice to begin with. Read to them first. 2: Provide something for them to do nearby while you read aloud, like markers and paper, a puzzle, magnatiles. They’ll do it for a little while and likely wander off. You will have to remind them not to interrupt you. They will forget, of course, but they will begin to get it, over time.

* We’ve read all of the books listed above to children ages five and older, and they loved them. But lighter options that are great for reading aloud (I think of these as afternoon books) include the original Boxcar Children (any book between #1-20) and the older American Girl series books: Samantha, Kirsten, Addy, Molly, Felicity. There are loads of book lists online, this is an educational approach you can really lean into. If you need more ideas, let me know.

You are Not the Entertainment. 

Because of the crazy times, lots of people are suddenly home with their young children for extended and unexpected periods of time. I’m writing up a few general ideas I’ve learned over the years of being at home with one, two, three, and now four children. 

General idea number one…

You are Not the Entertainment. 

You are a provider who sources food, keeps a roof intact, equips a bed, encourages brushing teeth, and coos softly over headaches and stubbed toes. You are not an entertainer.

With the exception of one highly concentrated 45 minutes a day, you are not available to play.*

You are a pond, and your child is a frog. You are lily pads that they like to hop on every once in a while. You do not have good ideas for interesting games. You do not know what might be fun. You have a speckle of imagination, a leftover algae of green krongu imagination, to their utter essence of it. One of your imagination speckles is actually something they told you they were interested in, and you can periodically repeat this back to them.

Your child is returning to you from a scheduled environment where they have been interrupted ceaselessly: just settled on a good game? Playtime is over. lunchtime? Is now over. You were still writing? Stop writing. They adapted to interruptions. Now they will have to adapt to no interruptions. It may take three days. It may take four. They will adapt, I promise.

Don’t think for a moment that you have better ideas of what to play than they do, because you don’t. And if you think you do, you will confuse them and they will believe you, for a little while.

You are boggy and slow moving and they can splash through you and swim around to be reminded of what it feels like to be underwater and slow moving. Not only is this a useful approach to keep in mind, it is absolutely the truth.

*Play whatever you and they want during this 45 minutes and live it up. Tag. Hide and seek in a room that has one piece of furniture. Pillow fight. Card game they adore. Extraordinary slow-moving board game that has no winner.