Hello, friends! I’m Mauri, wife to Aaron, mama to two adorable munchkin girls, dog mama to Gipper, and a family and hospitality blogger at . I love to share ideas to help women gather and connect intentionally with family, friends, and neighbors, as well as offer encouragement that we can make a great difference in our communities, our country, and our world, right from our very own doorsteps.
One of the main ways I love to encourage family connection is through reading together. Before I continue, let me just confess: I actually wouldn’t consider myself a bookworm. I’m more of a wannabe bookworm – I’m someone who loves books (I’m a self-proclaimed book hoarder), but I don’t necessarily do a great job of carving out chunks of time each day to read. I really don’t sit still well. Please tell me some of you relate?
However, I’m learning the astronomical difference that it makes in a family, and thus, in a culture, when we regularly read with our kiddos, and I want to be part of that! (Seriously – the statistics are through the roof!) In fact, I’m such a big believer in family and reading, that I wrote a children’s book, , which is based on notes that my dad wrote and left for me by my cereal bowl when I was about 10-years-old. Our book was very much a joint effort – borne out of a family tradition – and hopefully now a launching pad to encourage other families that they can make huge impacts by reading together regularly and fostering simple family traditions.
I’m honored that Keri is sharing this space with me today and allowing me to pop in to share some encouragement with you! I am here to share some tips about how you, Mama, can make it easier to create a habit of reading with your kids without feeling the pressure of carving out tons of time each day in order to do it.
From my home to yours, here are five tips to make it easier to read as a family. I hope they’re as helpful to you as they are to me!
Read to Your Kids While They Play
I don’t know about your kiddos, but my kids are quite wiggly. My three-year-old sits still for a story far better now than she did a year ago, so we definitely capitalize on that when we can, but for the most part, both of my kids love to move, play, and explore, so I just go along with it. I imagine my kids aren’t the only ones! Instead of getting frustrated with their wiggly, playful natures as I tell them a story, I’ve found that reading to them while they play is a perfect compromise for all of us – they get the satisfaction of playing and listening, and I get the satisfaction of knowing they’re getting extra brain nourishment while they play. I’m sure there’s science out there that’ll tell us our munchkins do a great job of retaining stories and information they hear as they’re simultaneously working with their hands, but for us, it’s simply a must if we’re going to get through some books together!
Read to Your Kids While They Eat
I did this more often with my older daughter before my second daughter was born, but I still find myself with free moments here and there while my kiddos are eating. While they’re sitting down for a meal or a snack, I’ll occasionally get out our Jesus Storybook Bible and read a short story while they eat.
I’m a big believer in frequent family mealtimes, but even I have to frequently convince myself to “just be” and relish in the moment of being at the table together! I’m hoping that family mealtimes get a little easier as our tiny kids get older and are able to have more conversation (moms with older kids, please tell me this is true?), but for now, I’ve found that, sometimes those remaining 15 or 20 minutes at the table as we wait for the kiddos to finish eating are a perfect opportunity for us to sneak in a story or two.
Place Some Books in the Common Area(s) of Your Home
Doing this makes my first two tips even easier! While the vast majority of our children’s books stay in my oldest daughter’s room, we keep some books in the common area of our home for easy access. That way, if I do find a free 5-10 minute window while they’re eating, or if they’re playing in our little play area or living area, I can easily grab a book and read in those margins of time.
A couple of children’s Bibles on a shelf in our play area
I’ve also found this just helps provide an incentive to read – when I see the books there, it makes it easier to just pick it up and start reading!
Make a habit of going to the local library, but don’t go with a list
I feel like this strategy is freeing for both the Type A and Type B moms. For those of us who consider ourselves to be Type A (any fellow moms who feel like they could categorize themselves as Type AAAA?), I feel like this is incredibly freeing. Just show up? And don’t have a plan? Just let my kid pick random books off the shelves?
And for Type B moms, perhaps this might feel freeing to you because you don’t feel like you need to pressure yourselves to make a list in order to have a great experience at the library.
While we’ll certainly return to specific sections of the bookshelves in order to get books similar to ones we’ve read and loved, I almost always just let my 3-year-old go randomly start picking books off of shelves and then put them in our library bag. I’ll guide her sometimes, but for the most part, we end up with a very eclectic assortment of books. We usually walk away with at least 15-20 new books, and it’s fun, because we’ll often find stories we love that we may not have found otherwise. (And believe me, we’ve walked away with some duds, too, but it’s just part of the experience!)
Now, there are a couple of exceptions to this, but I still pretty much live by this “no agenda” principle. The first exception is, now that my 3-year-old is of the age that she can start articulating some preferences, I’ll usually ask her on the way to the library, “What kind of books do you think you might want to check out today? What do you think you might want to learn about?” Her most recent responses to that have been to get books on space, volcanoes, and princesses. But, instead of doing a book hunt ourselves, we’ll go up to the librarian, and I’ll have my daughter ask the librarian if she can help us find books on the topics she’s interested in. I’m learning this is so great, because it’s teaching my daughter how to make polite requests of others and ask for help! We go straight to the expert on children’s books, ask her for recommendations, and then follow her around the library as she picks some books off the shelves for us to try.
Turn Reading into a Competition or a Game (and a keepsake!)
Fellow list-lovers, this tip is for you! Fellow sappy, sentimental moms, this is also for you! And for those of you who have a competitive side (not me!), this is also for you!
I didn’t start doing this until last August (2017), but now that we’re in the habit of doing it, I don’t want to stop. Our library has a program that encourages kiddos to read through 1000 books before kindergarten. We started the program last Fall. Parents simply fill out blank lists provided by the library, and then we go back with that list after we’ve read out 100 books and get the next blank list. You can count books that you re-read as many times as you want (and believe me, we have), so it doesn’t need to be 1000 different books. Although, I will say, this “challenge,” so to speak, has really challenged us to read tons of books we may not have otherwise read.
I’ve found that the simple satisfaction of writing down books has been a huge incentive to keep reading, and it’s also so special, because we’ll keep these lists in my daughters’ keepsake boxes so they can look back on them someday and see how much time we spent reading together and recall which books we read.
Whether or not your local library has a similar program, consider writing down the books you read with your kids. My husband and I don’t remember to write down every single one we read with our girls, but it’s fun to fill in those blanks and have glimpses of those memories recorded on paper. Because it’s been so fun, I think we’ll continue to record books even once we’ve accomplished our 1000 book goal (which is actually a lot easier to accomplish than one might think!).
Because we love this tradition of keeping a book log, I want to help you create one, too! I’ve created this free printable (inspired by the adorable Pootsey, of course!) that you can download and print as many times as you need. If you have more than one kiddo, you can print one out for each kid, or you can fill one out for all of them – totally up to you! Each page has room to record 50 books, so after you’ve read through 50, simply print out this page again and record the next 50. You and your kids will love reflecting on these sweet memories together someday!
Thanks for having me!
Thank you again for letting me join you today! If you’re looking for some inspiration on tried-and-true children’s books that are fun to read aloud, . I’m sure this list will only grow as we continue our habit of reading! (I’m certain he’ll tickle your funny bone!), and be sure to get your free printable that you can download and print again and again to record those priceless family memories built around sweet story time together. Most of all, I hope you’ve been encouraged today of how simple we can make it to read together regularly as a family. You’re doing a GREAT job, Mama! Make sure to head over to Instagram as we are giving away a copy of Mauri’s book!