Baloo and I have read aloud together every single night since he was about 11 months old. Back then it was a tool to calm down before bedtime but now it is a time for just the two of us to share. Nine years of reading nightly has given us much more than the gift of literature.
Every parent has a focus that they deem most important and I don’t think any of us is more right than another. I have friends whose goal is to get their kids in nature, and they do that amazingly well. I have friends that want to spend a lot of time as a family, or friends that focus on their child’s interest, etc etc. Every parent has picked their thing.
Our thing is reading. We read aloud every night, rain or shine (figuratively) because reading with the boys is my #1.
Baloo and I started out by reading A Wrinkle in Time. Yes, I read my 11 month old A Wrinkle in Time (and the sequels…). He was obviously too young and didn’t get much out of it. But he didn’t want to sit for books at that time and I knew there were still benefits to reading aloud to him. So I did. And before long, he had an opinion about what books we read. So he chose. Then he started sitting with me.
The next thing I knew Baloo was 10 and we were still reading. We read aloud for 30 minutes to an hour every day (sometimes more because we get engrossed in a book). We read after Royal and Logi-Bear are in bed. It is our time. We bond over these books. We share the characters, the plots, the hurt, the loss, the triumph. We share the inside jokes from the books. We share the desire to grab a flashlight and just keep reading under the covers.
What Are the Benefits to Reading to Older Kids?
We have a tendency to think that the benefits of reading aloud to kids stops at a certain point. Or that older kids can get just as much reading alone than reading aloud. This simply isn’t true! Kids reading level doesn’t match their level of understanding until somewhere around 13. Even kids who are great readers benefit from being read to. Baloo and I are able to tackle books much past his reading level. We reading emotionally charged and political books that he probably fully grasp without a bit of prodding.
Reading together gives us a connection. We have private jokes that relate to characters in books. We relate real-life people and scenarios to characters and events in books. Sometimes we have great philosophical discussions. We just finished reading The Giver and it sparked numerous amazing discussions.
How Do I Fit in Reading Time?
I have a much more detailed post in the works on this but I didn’t want to leave anyone hanging. I get it – there are 24 hours in a day and we are busy. The only reason we read every day is because it’s part of our schedule and has been for so long. I simply can’t get away with not reading.
- Reading during meals. I know a lot of people read at breakfast. A captive audience isn’t such a bad thing.
- Read at bedtime. This is easier to start from toddler hood but it’s a great way to wind down the day.
- Make it a part of your homeschool schedule. It doesn’t have to be an hour or two. Start with 10 minutes and see how it goes.
Be creative and do what works! If you can fit it in on the weekends only – do that! There are not hard and fast rules as to how it has to be done. Is 20 minutes a day ideal? Yes. But 5 minutes a day still has benefits. 10 minutes on the weekend still has benefits! Don’t think that it is all or none. Do what you can do!
Still can’t fit it in? Consider reading a book with your child instead of two them. You’ll both read it but to yourselves. While it won’t have the exact same benefit you’ll still have a connection and something to spark conversations.
What Should I Read Aloud to My Older Kid?
I’ve talked to a lot of people about reading to older kids and it often comes down to not even knowing what books to start with. I can only give recommendations of what Baloo and I have read and enjoyed. And you’ll see we primarily indulge in long series of books. I have a hard time letting characters go so we stick with the same ones as long as possible!
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
This is a series of 4 (really super long) books. I mean, the last two books were 800 pages each. It took us forever to get through these books.
But they were so good. Bonus: Christopher Paolini was homeschooled!
Eragon is a dragon rider and has to battle a very powerful and evil dragon rider. This book brings fantasy to life. Eragon is a well fleshed out character who is not perfect and has to make some difficult choices. He is definitely a good role model.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Everyone knows Harry Potter so I won’t go into detail. The Harry Potter world is so well thought out that it’s an easy book to get into.
This was a staple book while I was growing up but there are an amazing amount of people who have never read it! It’s a short read and absolutely word it.
Jonas is a 12 year old boy who lives in a community of conformity – all choice has been removed. It’s almost a utopia with no crime, no pain, no rudeness or hurt. Very interesting concept and great for sparking conversations about how much freedom we are willing to give up.
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
We just finished this series. I love that Gregor, the main character, was really young. He was 10 or 11 in the first novel. I love that Baloo could relate to his age.
Gregor falls throw a grate in NYC to the Underland where he meets giant rats, bats, and some very different humans. The five books are all about his role in hopefully saving the Underland.
I have to admit, the reading level for these books is not high. In fact, I’m now reading them to Royal and Logi-Bear. I don’t feel like it was a challenging read for Baloo but we did enjoy them.
We really like Suzanne Collins. Baloo and I read the Hunger Games series last year. It was one of those series where we ended up reading for more than an hour every night. Riveting. If you saw and liked the movies, you’ll love the books.
This is another series of really long books but it’s such an interesting world that Funke has created! I don’t even think I can do it justice. Fantasy type story with a lot of fantasy creatures.
I legit bawled at this book. Like, the ugly cry. It’s a great read which really delved into some advanced space, astronomy, physics, math etc concepts. They wove in just a bit of factual information that was quite interested and combined it with a story of fantasy. And then they break your heart into a million pieces.
Baloo and I both really loved the book (he didn’t cry though).
If memory serves me correct (it doesn’t) than that it about all we’ve read in the past year. Other books we enjoyed before that when he was a bit younger:
How To Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
This book is nothing like the movie. I mean, the names are the same but the characters, plot, and nearly everything else is changed. The books are amazing and the movie was terrific but they are not even related.
Baloo and I read through all of the books when he was younger and loved them. I’m hoping to start reading them with Royal pretty soon!
Anything by Roald Dahl
That’s not a book title, I just mean anything he’s written. Baloo went through a phrase where he would only choose Dahl books. Fine by me! He style of writing is so differently from current American styles. I think that was a breath of fresh air in some ways.
Our absolute favorites were The B.F.G., James and the Giant Peach, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Although, we never read one that we didn’t love.