Tips for Wrangling Busy Kids at Read Aloud Time

a dad and two kids sit/stand on a couch, reading a book

Each year my goal is to read more with my kids. If you are like me, you write an extensive book list, order or reserve the books, scope them out, and get excited.

Then I sit down to read, and my book-loving bubble bursts within minutes.

I hear my voice rising decibel by decibel, minute by minute, trying to be heard over the Hot Wheels cars zooming over my feet, the tickle-fest that just broke out, the phone ringing in the kitchen, and the whining because somebody didn’t want to read that particular book.  

Sound familiar?

Let’s  be honest with ourselves here and realize right off the bat that we are reading to children here. There’s going to be wiggling and noise. But let’s not let that discourage us from reading because there are a few things we can do to set ourselves up for a great read aloud time.

Set the Tone

Make a big deal out of read aloud time.  Gather the kids with their blankies, get cozy, light a candle, turn off your phone, pour some cocoa, light the fire—whatever you need to do to get your kids in the zone to begin reading time. Make it an event, not just another part of school. Reading time should be special.

Consider Your Audience

Reading a book to your kids that’s six inches thick or one that was written in Olde English might not be the best choice. If you haven’t done a lot of reading aloud with your children, start small. Choose something that you can easily finish in a week or two. Of course, the BookShark Read-Alouds assigned in the Instructor's Guides are carefully chosen to captivate you and your children. Besides those titles, here are more great books to get you started:

  • Charlotte’s Web

  • Mr. Poppin’s Penguins

  • James and the Giant Peach

  • Little House in the Big Woods

  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle

  • A Bear Called Paddington

Also, consider your children’s ages and attention spans. Very small kiddos aren’t going to be able to sit and listen for longer than 20 minutes or so.

Be Mindful About the Time

Tips for Wrangling Busy Kids at Read Aloud TimeWhat time of day is everyone really chilled out and relaxed? Is it right when everyone wakes up and is still a little sleepy or right before bed?

If read aloud time isn’t working for you very well, consider doing it at a different time of day. In our house, we were trying to read aloud in the mornings, but we were constantly getting interrupted by the toddler and we felt like we couldn’t keep reading even if we became engrossed in the story because we needed to get going with our day and start our school work. So now, we have been doing read aloud time in the evening right after bathtime.  

My husband takes the toddler to bed to read to her her own picture books (still very quality picture books—no twaddle allowed). Then the older three children and I will light a fire, snuggle up, and drink tea while we read our book together. This new method is working much better for us. Yes, I’m tired and I’m kind of ready to go to bed myself, but it’s a special time for us all to read together this way.

What to Allow at Read Aloud Time

With all things, I think we should have a few things to allow and to not allow during reading time. If you have an extra wiggly kid, it might be a great idea to allow them a small pile of LEGO blocks to keep their hands busy while they listen. They are still listening and hearing the whole story; some kids simply need to move while they listen. You could also give wiggly kids some putty to squeeze in their hands.

As long as they know to not be disruptive with their little toys so that others can listen, let them do something to keep them from doing backflips off the back of the couch. (Ask me how I know.)

What Not to Allow at Read Aloud Time

In our home, there are some things that just don’t fly during read aloud time: wrestling, getting us off track by throwing out a totally random thought, and being distracting in general. Your kids need to know that they can definitely ask you questions about what’s going on or offer thoughts about the book, but they also need to respect you and know that you have the floor during this time.

If you choose great literature that’s captivating, you won’t have a problem with your kids wanting to sit and listen to what you’re reading. They’re going to want to hear what the next chapter brings!

Reading to your children is a tradition they’ll remember forever.  Start young and keep going.  Make it a part of your daily routine. Good luck and keep reading!

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About the Author

AliciaAlicia Hutchinson is the homeschooling mom to four.  She and her children love reading and history and exploring outside. They are just settling into their new home in the Minneapolis area, where they just relocated from North Carolina.

You can read more about Alicia and their homeschooling adventures, current projects, and thoughts on motherhood at her blog Investing Love.