A few months ago, I started something with my grandson that I didn’t do with my kids. Seeing how much he enjoys it and how important it is, I’m feeling a little guilty my kids missed out.
I’ve been reading aloud to my grandson. Two or three nights a week. That may not sound so remarkable, but as a preschooler, reading was our favorite thing to do together. Once he started reading on his own, I kind of left him to it. The whole family was excited. He was reading!!! Mission accomplished! And like most families, our focus shifted to making sure he read every day, to gain fluency and do school work.
But my grandson was missing our reading time. He missed stories. We went back to reading the same books as before, but it didn’t work anymore. He was ready for more sophisticated stories. Stories that stirred his imagination. Stories that made him hunger for more. Stories that broadened his view of the world and stirred new ideas in him. At eight, he was reading, but like most visual learners, his reading skills lagged a bit. When he did read, he was so focused on getting the words right, he missed much of the story. After a while he didn’t like reading any more. He didn’t love books like he did before.
Desperate to remedy this, I started reading to him last spring. To choose a book, I thought about what my kids’ favorite books were from 5th and 6th grade. I wanted a book close to his grade level but wanted to reach a bit further. I also wanted a book that had been made into a movie. A flood of titles came to me and I choose A Bridge to Terabithia. It was perfect. It’s the story of a ten-year-old boy with an imagination that’s not always appreciated. He loves to draw, has a hard time fitting in and is not that crazy about school overall. In the book, he makes friends with the new girl in town, who’s also very creative and imaginative. They have great adventures, while dealing with bullies, fitting in, families and even death.
Our grandson only stays at our house two nights a week but it’s enough time to get into the story and talk about it during the week. He loved it. I loved it. We were both a bit sad when we finished, but that’s the sign of a good story. As a special treat we watched the movie together. (One of our ground rules is, absolutely no movie, until we finish the book.) After watching, we talked about what the movie did well, ways it was different and the same, and what special extras they may have added. It was a lot of great conversation, especially for a visual kid. Visual kids are all about ‘seeing’ things. Their imaginations are always working overtime. Reading aloud gives them new things to ‘see’ and think about. Watching the movie allows them to see it from another visual point of view. To take it even further we got the audio version and he’s listened to the story dozens of time. It’s a great way to gain the rhythm and fluency of reading, while building literacy and vocabulary skills.
Our first adventure was so successful, it’s become a regular thing we do. We’ve read Tuck Everlasting, The Indian in the Cupboard, Island of the Blue Dolphins and are ready for more. I hope I’m tempting you to carve out some family reading time. It’s hard to imagine adding one more activity to your busy life. But it doesn’t have to be every night. And when you do it, it will become one of the things you look the most forward to. To help you get started, we prepared a list of books. Have a few kids that would enjoy it? Choose one book and gather them all for reading time. It can be something special for them to share. If mom and dad are too busy, or there’s a baby in the house, it’s a great way for grandma or grandpa to spend time with your kids.
Go ahead and take a look at our list and get started on your read aloud adventure. You’ll be amazed how receptive even your most experienced readers will be to this new tradition.
Do you have any books that you loved reading as a child or that you would recommend to us to read aloud? Share them in the comments below.