Thursday, February 2, 2012

Reading time... with boys

I am working toward reading aloud more and more to my children — not just picture books — but classic stories. After reading The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, I am seeing the benefits of limiting our TV time and increasing our reading time. There was a recent article in The New York Times that reiterates the importance of reading to your children. In my opinion, this study just reinforces what many parents already know: reading to your kids expands their vocabulary and imagination.
However, getting boys to sit still long enough for me to read to them took some initial creativity. It's no mystery that boys have tons of energy. They are constantly on the move. For me, I'm finding that making them sit still is harder and more difficult than catching a fruit fly. Thankfully, it seems that there are some ways to combat this unending motion.

Physical activity
To me, this is the most important factor. Give them plenty of opportunities to burn energy — both free play and mom-directed games. How? Get outside and play. Too cold or rainy? Set up an indoor obstacle course or foam puzzle squares. Put on silly music and lead them in dancing or jumping.

Regus2 and Regus1 showing their love of playing outside.
Continually reminding them (as they run past me) that there are times and places for running around. They are learning (some days slower than others) that it's not always a good time and place to run.

Running on low?
Fill up their "tanks" with love. I don't know if my Mom read this someplace or if it's her own terminology. But she's wisely taught me that each child has a tank that needs to be filled with love and attention. When they are being unruly, it means they are "running on fumes." I try not to let it get that low, but I can get distracted. Use a timer if you need it (works for me) to give them your undivided attention for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. They get into SO much less trouble, when they've had their "mommy time." They feel confident in my love that they don't need to seek out hazardous ways of getting me to pay attention to them. Oh, and Dads, don't forget that they have need "daddy time," too. Mommy can fill of up their tank, but that doesn't mean that Daddy can't fill it up, too. I've found that the same goes for grandparents.

Model Good Reading Habits
To me, reading a book is a luxury. I can get so wrapped up in the story that it becomes an guilty pleasure, and I feel as though I'm ignoring my household duties. As a result, I've kidded myself to think I shouldn't read my own books in front of my kids. However, I'm realizing now that my kids do need to see my love of reading. Now, we are dedicating several "quiet reading times" during the day. We set the timer for 15 minutes. (Yes, I think I have a timer addiction.) After the 15 minutes is over, the boys each can pick out one of the books they read (looked at the pictures), and we'll read them together.

During reading time
Before reading time starts, I offer them a toy (that doesn't make noises) to hold. I've found that the quiet toy gives them something to keep their minds and hands busy, so their legs don't have to keep moving. For hands-on learners this is very important. Despite what we've been often taught, hands-on learners can learn while holding and fidgeting with something. It helps them diffuse the extra energy in their bodies. And their minds are still very aware of what is going on around them. (I learned this from my younger brother's psychology professor and have tried it on my oldest. It's a miracle!!) A veteran homeschool mom suggested that I have toys that are just for reading time. This makes reading time special.

This year, moving on to books without many pictures has been interesting. I was reminded of my tricks to teach them to sit still for appropriate times. Before starting, I am careful to make sure they have had plenty of "mommy time." That way, they won't spend reading time trying to get my attention. The "quiet toy" is a big help, too. Our family rule is that they can play with the toy, but they can't make any sound effect. Remember, they ARE boys.

It took us at least a month of daily reading time (one chapter each time) before I started to see some interest in the story. At first, it almost felt futile. Finally, when we were finishing up The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, I noticed that the boys were really focusing on the story. They made me read two chapters in a row because they didn't want to miss what happened to Aslan after the stone table broke.


When we were almost finished with the book, Regus2 (4 years old) saw how many pages we had read and how few were left. The sense of accomplishment in those precious eyes made every frustrating day worth it.

The day before we finished reading the last chapter, I found the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series. The boys were SO excited, they wanted to start the next book then and there. I reminded them that they had just a little more left in the book before they could go on to the next. After we did finish the book, they immediately brought me the next one. So exciting!

I want to encourage moms of young children that you can find a balance to play and reading time... just go heavy on the play for now. Surround them with lots of books and opportunities to read, and they will grow to love it, too. I am also learning to enjoy each and every stage of my boys.

How do you encourage your kids in reading and listening to stories?


Post a Comment