Reading to kids

The Read-Aloud Handbook

Read-Aloud Handbook 6
The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition by Jim Trelease

I read The Read-Aloud Handbook when my son was a baby, and it made a big difference in how I approached reading with him. First of all, we dove right in with reading board and cloth books, even though he didn’t understand them. I liked them, and he liked sitting on my lap, looking at and touching things. We’d snuggle up multiple times a day and pass some of our slow-moving time reading through stacks of chunky books. I got him involved in turning the pages by wiggling them until he grabbed them. Eventually he started turning them on his own. Now, in his twos, we still read board books, but we also read longer paper picture books, too. He’ll sit still for stacks of them, asking for them one after the other.

Trelease says as boys get older, it’s easy for reading to start to seem like a “girl” thing.  Sometimes moms and teachers are surprised when the boys in their lives don’t love the same books they used to when they were little girls, and it can be hard to be accepting of gross-out books or comic books or magazines. Still, letting boys read the books they’re interested in is key. Trelease also says boys respond particularly well to meter and rhyme — not something I remember being drawn to in kids’ books, myself.

On my own, I probably would not have gone this direction, but now when we see rhyming books about construction vehicles or rockets, we snap them up. My son loves them. I also look for all the books I can find on the topics he’s interested in, rhyming or not. (We have quite a construction vehicle book collection.) And if he seems especially interested in a book when we’re in a bookstore — even if it looks a little boring to me — we get it.

I buy books I like, too, though, and I also buy stretch books — books about holidays or important people or subjects I want to explore together. We look at them together at his pace about five times over the course of a week or two, and we stop when he wants to move on. He usually gets into them, and starts asking for them on his own.

Read-Aloud Handbook 2

At the end of The Read-Aloud Handbook, you’ll find a long, long list (maybe a third of the book long) of highly recommended books for kids at different ages and with different interests.

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Note: I’m linking to the Seventh Edition, but the copy I have — which is in the pictures above — is the Sixth Edition.

We don’t read books before bed (if I can help it)

Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic’s I’m Tired of Reading Out Loud to My Son, O.K.? surprised me. I get that people have different taste, but reading reading picture books with my kid is one of my favorite things to do. Dreading it seems… hard to understand.

But then I realized Lucianovic is talking about reading before bed. Yeah, I don’t like that either.

I’ve only parented one toddler, so I don’t know if what works for us would work for everyone, but around here we read during the day. We get out our books when we need some sync-up time — when I want to snuggle up with my son and calm him down, or when he seems to want my attention in general. If we have a big day planned, I try to read with him for about twenty minutes after breakfast, after he’s dressed, and before we head out the door. It’s a good way to feel connected after nudging him through the morning and before we get in the car and start driving. Sometimes we’ll read after nap time before Gavin gets home from work.

By bedtime, though, I’m exhausted. What energy I have left is for helping him toward sleep as smoothly as possible. I can’t spend it making hippo voices or being excited about…well, pretty much anything.

Daytime. That’s the time to read books.

And we only read books we both like. That’s what works for us — so far, at least.