We live in a world of Instagram and Pinterest, where “perfect” families make “perfect” crafts and have “perfect” lives. Let’s be serious. We post the good pictures on social media, but how many outtakes did it take to get that perfect shot? Reading to kids falls under this umbrella too. I have posted photos on my Instagram of my daughter and I curled up and reading together. And that totally happens! But I will not lie to you. There are definitely days where that perfect picture is NOT what happened!
I started this blog to encourage families to spend more time together reading, learning and enjoying books. The activities that I share are meant to be easy for everyone to do, without any pressure to be perfect. I am far from perfect, and that is okay. I have read a lot of literature on reading to kids and teaching them how to read, and today I decided to share the top 5 things that experts in reading don’t tell you.
1. There is no such thing as the perfect read aloud!
The picture perfect read aloud photos we see on social media make it seem so easy to get your kid to snuggle up with you and read story after story, sharing laughs and teaching them about reading. Back in the real world, how many times have you had more than one kid on your lap fighting over a book? How about a child who keeps flipping the pages back and forth while you are trying to read it? These are all part of the read aloud experience, but you won’t see them photographed for the world to see! Learning to let go of the “perfect” read aloud scenario can help you to get less frustrated during these moments and see the humor in the chaos.
2. Kids will get bored and walk away.
I cannot tell you how many times my daughter has brought a book to me and asked me to read it, only to get bored and walk away one page into it. There are a few books that she will close on me on the exact same page every time. It’s like there is some internal timer or a message I’m not seeing in the illustrations. Either way, I have learned not to get frustrated and I let her get up and walk away.
Sometimes I will finish reading the story while she walks around the room (hey, I want to know what happens to Llama Llama this time!). Other times, I will close the book and dutifully accept the next one that she hands me. Forcing her to sit with me and finish a story that she obviously isn’t interested in at the moment won’t end happily for either of us.
3. Avoiding frustration is better than forcing it!
No matter what age your children are, there can be nights when reading together is frustrating. If your toddler refuses to sit still or gives you 400 different books to read, or your beginning reader is too tired and frustrated to read or look at books any more, then you can call it a night. Don’t be so focused on the idea that you have to read together every single night, that you all end up frustrated and near tears by the time you turn the lights out! All of the research in the world about the benefits of reading to kids doesn’t mean anything if your “reading” time is actually spent fighting or crying!
4. It is totally normal and okay to hide that book you have reread 6,000 times this month
I love children’s books. I love re-reading some of my daughter’s favorite books to her over and over again, because they bring her joy and she learns a little more each time. The research shows that kids really benefit from hearing the same stories over and over again. Putting that aside, we all reach a point where we think about hiding that book, at least for a little bit, to avoid looking at it one more time today.
I love Dr. Seuss, and Fox in Socks is one of our favorites. However, there have definitely been a few days where the fox went “missing” for a bit. Unfortunately, my daughter has found most of my book hiding places, so I will have to find new ones. But there is no shame in sending Fox or Llama or any of our other character friends on a mini vacation once in a while.
5. Kids will not remember perfection
This may be the most important point of all. Your kids will not remember every detail of every read aloud. They will not remember if you had a night or two where you skipped some pages, or if you started 3 different books and didn’t make it through any of them. They will remember that you read to them; plain and simple. Don’t stress yourself to create the perfect read aloud experience, when your kids just need a read aloud experience!
The most important part of reading with your kids is reading with your kids! It doesn’t matter how much you read every night, or what you read, or who does the reading. What matters is that you are reading together and building a bond through books. Forget those perfect Instagram photos. Focus on the imperfect, but totally awesome read aloud that you and your family share.
If you want to really rock read aloud when everyone is ready to snuggle up, check out this post full of great tips!