When my daughters were young, reading books together was one of our favorite things to do as a family. Most often, my husband, daughters and I would snuggle up together just before the girls went to sleep, and either my husband or I would read aloud. We stopped often to laugh or talk about something we had just read. No matter how many directions we went during the day, it was comforting for me to know that for 20 or 30 minutes each night, we would put aside time to be together and focus on a story.
We didn’t call what we did a family book club, but that is in effect what we created. I like to think those family book sessions helped spark an early interest in reading that later led to our mother-daughter book clubs and our continued interest in sharing books together. If you’re considering starting your own family group, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Find a consistent time to read, and make sure that no other distractions get in the way. For many families, that window of time comes up just before the kids go to bed. It’s sometimes easy for busy parents to fill this time with chores, but everyone benefits from a breather where you are all focused on engaging in an activity together.
- Choose books that your kids will think are fun and imaginative. Children love to hear about fantastical worlds where the rules they are familiar with don’t apply. When your children are very little, you can start out with picture books that you read over and over again, talking about something new in the story each time. As they grow, you can graduate to more complicated stories that cover issues of family and friendships.
- Make the time a treat, and don’t force it as a punishment. This should be a fun time for everyone. If the book isn’t resonating, don’t keep going just because you think your kids need to finish the story. If this happens, they will look for ways to get out of family reading time and so will you. At the same time, don’t threaten to cancel your reading sessions if your kids do something you disapprove of. Your book club should be a way to grow closer together, not further apart.
- Be open to other storytelling methods. We used to love listening to the stories on NPR’s Rabbit Ears Radio. For a half hour, we would all lie quietly and listen to the tale being read, then we talked about it afterward. You can look for books on tape or seek out a storyteller that performs at the library or somewhere else in your community.
- Don’t be afraid to use funny voices as you read, and stop to explain something if you need to. My daughters usually didn’t interrupt, but sometimes while reading I got the feeling they didn’t really understand what was happening in the story. When my husband or I stopped and asked if they knew what was going on, we had a chance to talk about it and they often learned something new.
- Bring something you read about into another part of your day. For instance, if the characters in a book enjoy eating ice cream, set up a time when everyone in the family can go out for a treat just like in the story.
November is National Family Literacy Month, and I’ll be presenting ideas for families to read together throughout the month. You may want to look at this article on good books to consider for your family book club. And don’t forget to add a comment to my previous post for your chance to win a copy of Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. I’ll be giving away one copy each Friday in November to help encourage new clubs to form.