Why Family Reading Time Should be on Your Summer Bucket List

Why Family Reading Time Should be on Your Summer Bucket List | Houston Moms Blog

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every child has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the child’s heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

– Strickland Gillilan, The Reading Mother

It is that time of year again where every weekend is filled and many weeknights too. End-of-year activities abound with all of their concomitant time commitments. For me, the month of May is a time of discombobulation only rivaled by that which takes place in the month of August, where my moments alternate in the extremes of sadness as treasured milestones come to a close and excitement at the knowledge that summer is right around the corner and I will get to treasure my babies {who are no longer babies} all day, every day, without the requirements of alarms and uniforms and hastily-toasted eggo waffles, where schedules are left forgotten in a drawer next to the computer that will soon sport its own layer of dust.

For me, the month of May also signifies the beginning of a hunt…a hunt for the perfect summer book to read aloud as a family. One of our most treasured summer rituals is Family Reading Time, a portion of time set aside each day, where we gather together on the floor and I read to them from the chosen book of the summer. And before you ask, yes, two of my three children are perfectly capable of retreating to their rooms to read on their own, but this was a ritual begun before such a time as this and which has continued despite the fact that this moment is no longer “necessary.”

And this moment can often be a little chaotic, depending on the age of my children at any given time. There have been summers where the oldest sat contentedly, the middle rolled around on the floor like a snake and the youngest nursed her way into a nap while I faithfully pulled out my best voices and turned the pages with only one available hand. But snapshots of anarchy aside, these moments demonstrate for them that reading is important, entertaining, and worthy of our time. It shows them that the characters and stories come alive just for them in their very own imaginations in a way that will never be the same on television or in a movie. And one day, when they are grown, I have the hope that they too will see this as an act of love that each parent can give to their child, the tiny little gift of adventure that can be found within the pages of a book, carried with you anywhere.

So I encourage you, make the time to read to your children as a family this summer. Make the adventure of a good book a destination all its own. Not only is it a life-long gift that you can give them, but you may discover that it is incredibly fun for you as well. I have often wished aloud for the existence of a career that involved doing nothing but reading aloud to children each day. I think that would just about make my life complete. And don’t let age differences stop you before you try. My children range in age from 3-12, but I have found that when you are the one doing the reading, the age differences matter much less, in a way that is similar to storytelling.

When choosing a book for the summer, my general rule of thumb is to read up rather than down. If you have multiple children, aim for something slightly above the level of the children in the middle. Here are a few suggestions for books that are great read-aloud options at varying age levels:

1. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh {sometimes two separate works, Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner} :: This is a great one to start with, especially if your children are quite spread apart in age. There is humor on many levels in these stories and while many younger children may trip over the language or miss the punchline in them when read on their own, your ability to add emphasis when necessary will help the charming wit of these stories shine through. The simplicity of the worldview that is expressed in the adventures of this stuffed honey bear and his panoply of furry friends will bring forth nostalgia in you and give today’s children a chance to immerse themselves in the quiet of a time that no longer exists. And if you can make it through the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner while staring at your children, without weeping solidly to the point of being incoherent, then you are a greater parent than I, that is for sure. Every child deserves this treasure of a book. Do it.

2. The Narnia Series :: Depending on how much time you spend reading together each day, you may get through several of the books in the series, or you may just get through one. If you think you’ll only make it through one, go with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis is a master of language and these books flow beautifully when read aloud. Chances are, you may have read these when you were a child, but I find I discover something new each time I open them again. So, go ahead, take your children’s hands, climb into the wardrobe and take a trip to a forest that is stuck in winter without Christmas. You’ll be so very glad you did.

3. Anything by Roald Dahl :: Roald Dahl’s books appeal across a spectrum of age groups, so they are ideally suited for family reading. The fantastical stories have just the right balance of fantasy and fear and reveal a knowledge of the inner dialogue of a child that is inaccessible to most adults. Personal favorites of ours include The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory {and Charlie and the Glass Elevator}and The BFG.

4. The Hobbit :: This is another favorite summer read in our home. Why not take a trip to Middle Earth this summer? It’s less expensive than Disney World and not nearly as hot and humid. This book moves faster than The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and has less backstory that, while awesome in its creation, can sometimes bog down young audiences. This book has tiny adventurers, a noble quest, dragons and barrel rides…what more could you ask for in a summer book? And later in the day, when you catch your children at play pretending to be hobbits and dwarves, your nerdy little heart might just burst.

5. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane :: Telling the life story of a porcelain bunny whose heart of stone is slowly transformed into one of flesh, Kate DiCamillo weaves a wonderously poetic tale that will appeal to kids across all age groups…and the adult doing the reading just might learn a thing or two as well. This one will haunt you a little, but isn’t that the sign of a great book?

6. The Harry Potter Series :: There’s no humanly possible way for you to read this entire series aloud in one summer, but that makes it a great option. You could start the series and do the first book or two the first summer and build anticipation with your kids for the following summer when you pick the series back up again. This also works well because your children will age as you make your way through the series and, as any Harry Potter fan knows, the books reach more mature and “dark” topics as the series weaves on. The Harry Potter books are my absolute favorite read-aloud books. There are so many fantastic characters and creating voices for them all is so much fun. I’ve read through this entire series aloud with two of my children now {yes, go ahead and add up all those hours, it’s frightening}, and I just can’t get enough of it.

I’m still in the process of choosing this summer’s book, but I encourage you to give group reading a try with your children. There is something so very special about sharing an adventure together, and even when one of them is pulling your hair and another decides to make tiny smacking noises with his mouth during the story that day, there will be memories made of this time when you would all come together as a family and sit down on the floor and jump inside a good book.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here