Reading aloud to wiggly kids

Research shows that reading aloud to young children from the day they’re born is the single most important thing parents can do to prepare their kids for learning and reading on their own. It helps to develop a child’s vocabulary, phonics, storytelling and comprehension, and simply a familiarity and appreciation for the written word. It also fosters empathy, and encourages social and emotional bonding between parent and child. (See www.ReadAloud.org for more information and research.)

An award-winning author Emilie Buchwald said “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” An avid reader myself, I have always dreamed of perfectly peaceful snuggles during our hours-long read-aloud adventures. Who doesn’t like to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and read, read, read?

My kids, apparently. They’re wiggly and full of energy, to say the least. I often joke that we read AT them, not TO them. Many attempts to make them sit still ended in tears, meltdowns, self-deprecating comments and aversion to story time. What was I doing wrong?

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I was conditioned to believe that good listeners sit perfectly still, hands folded in their lap, listening ears turned on and eyes wide open. After all, fidgeting while being read to can seem rude.

With constant nagging, “Sit down, sit still, stop wiggling, stop fidgeting,” the kids  were spending ALL their mental energy trying to keeping their bodies still and could not concentrate on the story.  Attempts to build early literacy through reading aloud were detracting from my boys’ enjoyment of the books. We had to find a better way to enjoy reading together, so we came up with the compromise.

If you have been following our Reading Snowflakes Challenge (#readingsnowflakes  on  Facebook and Instagram pages,) you have noticed that my kids always have some kind of project that keeps their hands (or mouths!) occupied during reading times. To make read-aloud sessions a positive experience, I read, they listen and keep themselves busy with quiet activities during reading times.

These are some of out favorite activities:

  • drawing or doodling in the journal
  • playing with playdough or slime
  • building with LEGO, Duplos, wooden blocks
  • creating with magnets
  • working on a puzzle
  • creating shapes on geoboard
  • finding a way out of mazes
  • building with toothpicks, pipe cleaners, marshmallows, dry noodles, etc
  • playing single player logic games (Shape By Shape, Q-bitz, Rush Hour and others)
  • exploring sensory bins (salt, sand, beans, chickpeas, water beads, shaving cream)
  • scissor practice (this is our favorite activity this winter! We have soooooo many beautiful snowflakes created during reading times!!)
  • acting out scenes from the book

How to maximize read aloud time:

  • let the kids explore the books on their own, even if they are not fluent readers yet.
  • read aloud in the morning,
  • read during meal times,
  • explore story time at the local library or bring a book to read during playdates,
  • have a tea party (poetry tea time became our favorite activity!)
  • OUTSOURCE! listen to audio books and podcasts in the car.

What read-aloud tips or activities do you have? I am always open to new ideas and suggestions.

School day

Our days rarely go as planned, but we try to follow a blueprint. Sort of. 

Every day routine includes read alouds, board games, more books, 1 topic we’re obsessed with at the moment (that usually spirals into deep rabbit holes,) at least 1 writing activity and taking care of the house.

Once a week we try to do one community service or hospitality project, one or two field trips and one outdoor excursion. 

Popular morning baskets aren’t a good fit in our family: we only have a few hours before overexcitabilities kick in and attention span is gone. Instead, we read a few books or magazines during breakfast.

1. Today  Breakfast and Books (modeled after My Little Poppies’ Coffee and Books) turned into Books in Bed. We snuggled up together in little guy’s room and read whatever kids wanted. 

2. September is the most popular birth month in America, and it’s definitely true for our family. Big kid made birthday cards for everyone, he practiced handwriting, spelling, vocabulary ,  tracing and drawing. 

3. When your kid is as literal as Drax (Guardians of the Galaxy,) math is fun. 

Caffeine didn’t kick in yet, and this is the best my scrambled brain could come up with on the spot. “Yuri has 2 red books. His friend has 4 blue books. How many books do the boys have?”

The answer:

We are juggling Math-U-See, Life of Fred and Khan academy math and anxiously checking the mailbox for brand new Beast Academy 2A. Squeeee!

4. After years of refusing to learn Russian, my kids are finally warming up to it. First lesson  went better than expected!

We counted letters in Russian and English alphabets, found letters that look and sound the same, read Репка (The Turnip) and learned a new song, Мишка Косолапый (Clumsy Bear.)

5. “I’m so tired, I need to relax a little with Rush Hour!”  And Jenga, and Shape by Shape, and…a screwdriver? 

Schoolwork is done! And now it js our favorite time, laundry time! Cleaning time! Cooking time!
I would love to hear what your typical homeschooling day looks like!