Q&A: Any tips for reading aloud to my children or recommended chapter books?

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This summer I really want to start reading chapter books out loud to my children. I have 4 children: ages 7, 5, almost 3, and 10 months. We read books a lot, but I’ve never read chapter books to all of them at one time.

My goal is to read for 20 minutes each morning. I was wondering if you had any tips and what your top recommendations are for chapter books. I’m finding it difficult to find ones I think all of my children would find engaging!  -Jayne

1. Read At the Level Of Your Oldest Child

Children can understand a lot more than we give them credit for. While I’m a big fan of reading fun picture books, I think it’s also good to read books that are a little bit above a child’s level to help them think, learn to analyze, and expand their vocabulary.

When I’m reading to my children, I always read books that are geared for Kathrynne’s level. And you know what I’ve found? Kaitlynn and Silas understand much of what I read and get into the story, too.

2. Gradually Increase Your Reading Time

If you’ve never done much read-aloud time before, I’d recommend starting with just five or ten minutes and working up from there. For those who have young children, starting them on chapter books by reading while they are eating breakfast or lunch is a great way to introduce them to good read-alouds while their hands are already occupied and their bodies are still.

With some practice, you’ll probably find that your children are engaged for longer stretches and they may even be begging for more after you’ve already read two or three chapters.

3. Don’t Expect Your Children to All Sit Quietly

While I know some people expect that read-aloud time means everyone sits with their hands in their lap while mom reads, that’s not at all what happens at our house. In fact, I’ve found that often my children listen better when their hands are busy.

So I encourage my children to play with Legos, or draw, or color, or do some other quiet activity while I’m reading. They seem to enjoy it a lot more — and the time flies!

4. Make Sure Your Oldest Children Are Engaged

Foster a love of good books in your children by making sure that they are staying engaged when you are reading. Not all school subjects are always going to be fascinating and captivating, but I try to pick chapter books that Kathrynne and Kaitlynn are going to really get into.

If things seem a little dry in portions of a book, I’ll sometimes use funny accents or totally dramatize things just to make it fun and exciting. If the girls are intently listening and then beg for more when it’s time to stop, I know that I’m accomplishing my goal of making read-aloud time something they love.

5. Don’t Forget the Picture Books!

If your read-aloud time is geared toward your older children, make sure that you also include a regular diet of picture books for the younger ones, too. We often start out our read aloud time with one or two picture books that everyone crowds around to listen to and then we pick up our chapter book once I’ve finished reading the picture books.

In this way, we’re making sure that read aloud time offers a little bit of something for everyone — and it helps provide some variety, too.

Some Of Our Favorite Chapter Book Series

For other good chapter book recommendations, check out Honey for a Child’s Heart, Hand That Rocks the Cradle, Read For the Heart, and Educating the Whole-Hearted Child.

What about the rest of you? What advice and book suggestions do you have for Jayne?

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