It does take a village: how one family shares the reading task and increases reading energy

When interviewing Pavan, an Abound dad we highlighted in a recent blog, we noticed that in his family’s house, other adults besides the mum and dad regularly read to the kids. So today’s posting focuses on why it makes sense to think about ways you might enlist the help of others and lighten your own load, and how one family does it!

Increase reading energy: why bother?

Taking care of children gives parents lots of opportunities to build the three types of skills they need to become strong readers. But you don’t have to do it alone — in fact, it is too big a task. Ideally, there would be all sorts of people helping out to fill your child’s days with skill-building opportunities that are easy and regular and feel like play (including care providers, teachers, relatives, etc.).

We start with a discussion of sharing the book-reading time with adults in your child’s world. When others step in, it means that children get the benefit of sharing and talking about books with other adults they care about – and this can lead to exposure to the different types of text that the adults choose, added excitement about reading, and, often, more reading experiences. And, of course, all those experiences mean opportunities for building up language and understanding about the world, getting more exposure to print and the way books work, and building Awareness & Regulation Skills, too. In the end, while reading to kids can be the best part of the day, it’s nice for parents when there is less pressure to make sure to read on a given evening because someone else has taken it on that day.

Whom can you enlist?

For this section, we turn to Pavan (his comments are in italics) to show who steps up in his family.

  • The babysitter/nannyOur babysitter takes him to the library every week to pick up 5 books. She also reads to him very regularly – 2 to 3 times per day, depending on what is going on, and that includes a bedtime reading with the 9-month old, too.
    • Don’t have a regular babysitter or nanny? Some parents hire mothers’ helpers (10-11 year olds, for a small fee or no charge) to play with the children for an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday while an adult is in the house. The older child gets some experience taking care of children, and the younger child gets a combination playmate and babysitter. These “older” kids are often adored and when they read to little ones, it’s both a special treat for kids and a way to share the reading task.
  • Grandparents/Aunts & Uncles: We’re also very fortunate that our kids get regular visits with their grandparents. They read to my son as often as possible when they’re together and I know that the proud grandma definitely challenges him by reading him more advanced books.  I realize how very lucky we are to have this option, for sure. 
    • No relatives close by? Some families use Skype or FaceTime to give distant relatives chances to interact with the children. Try turning that time into reading time by asking the relative to read a favorite short book aloud. (We also heard from a family that uses a service called Caribu to allow far-flung grandparents and grandchildren to read together.)

Pavan also mentioned that they have enlisted another set of adults to read aloud, too, or at least sort of… those adults who do audio recordings! We love the audio book option, but hadn’t thought of that as a personal stand-in. Pavan has a point, though – books on tape do present other adults reading, and give parents a break! And while parent don’t need to listen at the same time, if it happens to work out, it can be especially worthwhile when there are, as Pavan describes below, “real” adults listening and talking with the children about what’s happening, too.

  • The Audio Voice: Recently, my wife started getting audio books (Merlin Mission, Geronimo Stilton, etc.) from the library. We use Overdrive and our son listens to the audio books when we’re in the car. We think it helps him learn new words (he asks about words in real time as we’re driving along) and process the narrative without pictures to help him. He really loves it, too.

Finally, there is always the free read aloud at the library, where there is often a well-trained reader who will use the book to get little ones thinking and talking about new topics. So don’t forget to mark the library read-aloud schedule on your calendar so you have a weekly chance to let another adult help grow your child’s reading skills for a change!

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