Connecting with Kids Through Books

This is Part Three of Seven in my Connecting with Kids Series. Join my email list to receive a special copy of all 7 posts with additional material, right to your inbox when the series is completed.

As my kids are growing up at light speed, I am constantly reminded of the passage of time. I want to make sure I spend lots of time connecting with my boys because, before I know it, they will be out of the house, living their own lives.

In this Connecting With Kids Series, I tackle seven really great ways to connect with your kids. I challenge you to choose one or two new ideas and test them out on your family. Now onto Part Three:

Connecting with Kids Through Books.

Most of us have memories of sharing a story – being read aloud to as a child – at home or at school, reading the same book as a friend, or hearing a grandparent tell a story.

Getting immersed in a story together gives you a wonderful shared experience.You can cheer on the main character, wonder about the awesomeness of nature, or empathize with a fallen hero. Sharing a book can fill the whole family with wonderful ideas to talk about over the course of days, weeks, and even years.

When you read together you will undoubtedly share a good laugh or a good cry.(ever read Charlotte’s Web? or The One and Only Ivan?)Sharing and expressing emotions celebrates one of the best things about being human and is the easiest way to connect with each other.

Books allow us to  share big ideas with our kids. Carefully chosen stories help us make sense of our world. They can explain big concepts like friendship, divorce, poverty, or loneliness in a way that is relatable.

Perhaps most importantly, connecting through books also forces you to slow down, snuggle in and spend some time together. After all, what your kids really want is your time.

My Big Confession

Before we go any further I have a confession. Connecting over stories  is our absolute favorite thing to do as a family. I knew that once I had kids, I would surround them with books, in part because this is how I grew up. I’ve experienced the magic of connecting through stories, pretty much for my whole life.

We have accumulated so many favorite authors and treasured memories through discovering stories as a family.  If I could do only one thing with my kids, it would be reading aloud to them.

I can also tell you that I believe that because we have made books such a part of our daily culture, my kids developed a love of reading from a very early age.I credit reading aloud to my kids as the single biggest reason why they are voracious readers, themselvesWhat a great side effect to all the closeness!

The ideas that follow have been part of our daily or weekly lives for 12 years.

Connect over a Read Aloud

If you don’t already read aloud to your kids on a regular basis, I highly recommend it. If you have stopped because your kids can read for themselves, start up again, asap. You’ll be so glad you did.

All you have to do is pick a book and start! Please, don’t worry about finding the perfect book.(Keep reading for TONS of suggestions) The important thing is that you are together, sharing time with your family. The more you read, the more you will determine what kinds of books you and your kids enjoy the most.

When reading aloud becomes part of your family’s culture a certain sort of magic falls over your home.  The stories will weave their way into your lives: the plot will be talked about at dinner, the funny characters will come up in the car, and your kids will beg for more. Read aloud time might just become your favorite time of the day(I know it’s mine!)

Our favorites(from Infants to Teens) Quiet Loud and all the Leslie Patricelli board books, Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers, Owl Moon by Jane Yolen,Mr. Putter and Tabby series, by Cynthia Rylant, Mercy Watson, by Kate DiCamillo, The Hank the Cowdog Series by John R. Erickson

Yikes! We’re busy, when do I fit this in?

It only takes 10 to 15 minutes a day to enjoy the benefits of reading aloud.  Thinking outside the obvious bedtime ritual, one of these times may work for you:

  • Read aloud at the breakfast or dinner table.
  • Keep books in the car for an impromptu reading session.
  • Take a book to wait at the doctors’ office.
  • Replace screen time with read aloud time!
  • Piggy back read aloud time with another part of your routine like right after morning chores, snack time or dinner clean up.

It might be easier to fit in stories when you multi-task and listen to an audio book. Which brings us to:

Connecting with an audio book

Audio books have all the benefits of a read aloud but, you get to sit back, relax, and listen, too!

Audio books allow you to listen on the go or when you’d like to multi-task. We love to listen in the car, or at home when we’re all  involved in a quiet activity, like drawing or folding laundry(me!)

It’s important to note: listening to stories does not have to look like all of your kids sitting perfectly around you in a semi-circle as you read. My kids usually play with legos, doodle, or play with clay while they listen.

You can find audio books online thru Audible or Librivox, but we love to check them out of our local library.

Our favorites so far: Harry Potter Series, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, The Green Ember, Farmer Boy, William Shakespeare’s StarWars, The Long Winter and Sparkle Stories(an absolute treasure for our family!)

Host a family book club

As your kids get older and become more independent readers, it’s super fun to read the same book as them – but independently. (You can work a few chapters into a read aloud, too) When everyone’s finished, plan something special to do together to celebrate the book.

This process does not have to fancy to be super meaningful.  You can celebrate a book by preparing a special meal together or going out for ice cream to talk about the book. It can look as simple as reading the same book as your kids and then talking about it whenever the mood strikes.

As kids get older and they begin to spend more time with friends, reading the same book  is  a fun way to have a common experience. My son and I are working our way thru the Fablehaven series–he’s reading them faster than me, but we still manage to talk a bit about them here and there –it’s been a really nice thing for us to connect over –especially when connecting with tween boys can be very difficult.

Try letting your kids pick a book to read together, first. If they need a suggestion they may like some of these books I’ve read alongside my kids: Cleopatra in Space, The Fablehaven Series,  Mighty Jack, The Adventures of TinTin, A Wrinkle in Time, and Mercy Watson.

Spin a tale yourself!

You may not think of yourself as a storyteller, but this can be a lot of fun to try. It may get you out of your comfort zone, but telling the simplest of stories to your kids will certainly delight them and create great memories.

Sitting on tiny chairs in our big bay window, my grandmother and I would tell stories to each other while I waited for my preschool bus. She’d weave a new adventure each day about The Pickle Family. Her stories were simple and silly. The Pickles would get stuck in a jar or slide off the table.   We’d roar with laughter and try to one up each other’s silliness.

Inspired by my grandmother, I told my kids stories of The Broccoli Family (two broccoli boys and their broccoli parents)My boys LOVED these stories and asked for them for years. Remember, kids are easily impressed with a silly, simple story. Make your kids the main character and weave a fantastical tale or make up characters from inanimate objects and tell about their everyday adventures.

Give yourself the room for it to not be perfect. And guess what? It’s not about the story, anyway. It’s the time spent together giving your kids your undivided attention that they will remember for a very, very long time.

Start a Holiday Tradition of Books

There are lots of things to connect over during the holidays and one of our faves is – you guessed it – books!  I have a stash of winter themed books that only come out after Thanksgiving and stay until just after the New Year.

Even though most of these are picture books, we still all love to sit and read them together. They flood us with memories of winters gone by and continue to instill great messages about giving during this time year.

I’ve accumulated childhood favorites, thrift store finds, and new suggestions.  I always purchase a few new ones each year and work them into our activity advent calendar.

You can build a book collection around any holiday. A birthday book each year would be fun – and just bring them out around their special day.

Our favorite resources

Check out the websites and books below for book suggestions and more story inspiration.

Read Aloud Revival Podcast and Sarah MacKenzie’s book, The Read Aloud Family.

The Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease

Read for the Heart, Sarah Clarkson

Honey for a Child’s Heart, by Gladys Hunt

Need more bookish inspiration?

Raise kids who love to READ!

Here’s some great examples of non-fiction books your kids will actually read!

Find out what we can learn a lot from a great reader – HERE.

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