Reading in your head can be a very solitary activity. Sure, it can be very companionable if you all snuggle up in bed together with your own books, but ultimately it transports you all to your own separate worlds away from each other. Reading together is a different matter altogether. Sharing a book is a wonderful way of bonding and fosters a powerful connection between adult and child. Whether you are reading a chapter book to an older child, a picture book to a younger child or listening to an emergent reader, you are being transported to that other world together.
Sharing reading means talking about about what you are reading. The narrative can be interrupted as often as wanted to discuss what has happened, what you think is going to happen next, what you would do in that situation, what the pictures show, how the story is making you feel, if it reminds you of anything else…
Reading to my children has been one of the most soothing things I have been doing since the schools shut. I am currently on Enid Blyton with my 6 year old and Harry Potter 5 with my 8 year old (that should keep us going for a while!) but it really doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you are enjoying it – non-fiction, poetry, fairytales and comic books are all a good way of keeping some variety.
We always read snuggled up under the covers at bedtime, but we are also snatching other opportunities during the day to fit in another chapter. It’s the perfect way to create a calm atmosphere and get some extra cuddles in.
And this applies to listening to your children read as well. There is a raging debate on social media about how much remote learning children should be doing during the shutdown, but everyone is in agreement that children need to keep reading. Listening to your children read aloud every day, even for a few minutes, will help keep up their literacy skills while the schools are shut. Keep asking them questions to check they are following the story and to keep them engaged.
And your big kids? How old is too old when it comes to reading stories together? I would keep going as long as they let you! My mum read to me through to the end of primary school. I have wonderful memories of the time we spent together sharing reading and I think that helped create my lifelong love of books.
And let’s not forget the adults. It might be a bit too Victorian to suggest you sit around reading to each other, but how about listening to audio books together instead of the news on the radio? It will give you more to talk about when the kids are in bed. Or how about agreeing to read the same book with friends and then arranging a zoom meet-up to discuss it? Or you could join an online book group being run by libraries or other organisations as a way of keeping yourself connected during times of self-isolation.