Category: Reading together

Want to Bond Your Family? READ!

March 4th was the birthday of Dr. Seuss. So of course, that got me thinking about family reading time. I’ve shared the idea that when we read to our children, we create a feeling that kids and teens need and want, that sense of family that feels warm and safe. BUT there are other reasons for reading with our children.

1. Reading as a family is a magnificent way to not only bond and enjoy each other’s company, it’s a way to teach core values without the lecture.

This is especially true when we read classics. And here’s another thing about reading the classics that I find fascinating – they’re worth reading more than once because we learn new things every time. They have some depth to them.

There are classics in each field from history, math, science, literature, the digital age, and even surfing, cycling, dancing, gardening, etc. There are classics for every age group.

One classic that my children loved was The Little Red Hen. Yup, it’s a classic. I know that we think of classics as dry and boring, but they aren’t. Here’s a link to a wonderful list of classic books I put together that kids and families will love.

Now back to the Little Red Hen. A family I know was reading The Little Red Hen together one morning. Then they all went grocery shopping. When they arrived home the car was full of groceries which needed to be carried into the house. Now, normally everyone would scatter off to do the next important thing but not on this day. The classic they had read just that morning had sunk into the hearts of the children. All the children began carrying in groceries without being asked. AMAZING, right!

A mother I attended a class with told this story. She and her boys were reading Little Britches. Set in the early 1900s this story is told from the point of view of a young boy who moves from New Hampshire to Colorado with his family because his father is ill and cannot work the coal mines any longer. Through the eyes of this young boy, we experience the perils and pleasures of ranching life from picnics to hay season, tornadoes to cattle roundups. Some of the main story themes are hard work, honesty, character, perseverance, and the simple life.

While they were reading this book the younger of the boys shared some information about his brother which he knew he shouldn’t share, and which caused his older brother some embarrassment. Later in a private moment, the younger boy said to his mom, “I guess I have taken some of the boards off of my house”, in reference to a comment by Ralph, the lead character in the book. Ralph was referring to doing something that was destroying his house of character.

Reading regularly as a family, from the classics, can be some of the most enduring and meaningful times we have with our kids. One of my daughters who is in her forty’s mentioned how wonderful it was, the way I read to them all the time. Amazing! I really didn’t read to them all the time. I read to them, but it wasn’t consistent. Even so, it had a powerful effect on her.

2. Another reason to read as a family is the shared memories that are forged.

I always anticipated being a grandparent and one of the things that I thought about was reading to my grandchildren. So, I made a plan. The whole experiment turned out pretty well. I had to explain to one family of grandkids, a couple of times, that this was a quiet time, but all in all, it was fun. We read a half dozen one-page stories from a big book that I had. I noticed that they went off to sleep with less noise and quarreling than usual.

When they came the next time, I had picked a couple of books that I thought were more interesting and livelier. Guess what? My 10-year-old granddaughter insisted that we read from the book we used our first time. That book held the memory of that first reading experience. They requested it every time. So, we always had to read at least one story from its pages.

3. Another perk that comes from reading as a family is the terrific conversations you can have together.

When Maggie was nine her school had an assembly and kicked off a month-long reading contest. Everyone wanted to win the contest. Maggie’s class had won the year before and wanted to win again. I was Maggie’s class aid at the time (she has cerebral palsy) and so I was able to observe how it went.

On one day they had five books read to them by participating adults. Some of the readers were very interesting and some read in a monotone and were soooooo boring. Some readers obviously liked what they were reading, and some felt uncomfortable. Some were good readers and some adults stumbled while reading all those rhymey words. The children enjoyed the books even if the readers weren’t comfortable or if they were a bit boring.

But here is what I noticed the most. There was virtually no interaction between the reader and the children, about the content of the books. A couple of the readers said something like this: isn’t that funny, wouldn’t you be scared, or what do you think of that. But these were rhetorical questions because time wasn’t given to the children to answer. If a child did try to answer they were asked to not interrupt so that the reading could go on. This is how most of us read to children. We are all about getting through the material. It’s so adult of us!

But there is a better way! And this better way is what creates that sense of family that can happen during family reading time. Talk about what you are reading. That’s why reading the Little Red Hen was so powerful for one family and why reading Little Britches was powerful for another. They talked about it.

If you need a tutorial on how it looks to have an enjoyable reading conversation with your family check out this article called Creating That Family Feeling

Take the time on a regular basis to gather your kids around you and read to them. You’ll be glad you did and so will your whole family!

Your Shares are the Best Compliment : ) 

Creating that ‘Family Feeling’

How Do Kids Feel About Reading As A Family?

The number one reason to read to your children until they leave your home and go out on their own is to establish an intimate experience filled warmth and belonging, that ‘family feeling.’

From Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report, we learn only 17 percent of parents of kids aged 9–11 read aloud to their children. Yet 83 percent of kids aged 6–17 say being read to is something they either loved or liked a lot.

One of my warmest memories is of my mother reading poetry to us. She didn’t read to us often, but when she did it was magical for me! As I think back on those reading moments with my mom, I know what made them so special. I felt my mom loved us and it created that ‘family feeling’ for me.

There are many ways to read together but if we really want to create that ‘family feeling’ then we can take a lesson from a mother I observed.

A Better Way To Read

Jodie was reading the book Charlott’s Web to her children. Frequently she would stop and ask a question. “What does manure mean?” “What does loft mean?” What does slop mean”? “What is a manure pile?” When the term manure pile came up again, later in the story, Jodie emphasized the term as she read. Then she asked, “Do you remember what manure pile means?” I heard, “Eweee, a pile of poop.” Then laughter.

In the story, the cows were described as patient. Jodie had been working on helping her children learn to be patient. When she read that word she stopped and said, “Patient means to wait quietly till you get what you need.” She got knowing looks from the kids.

At one point something happened that wasn’t right and one of the characters in the book said, “You’re going to catch it.” Jodie asked the kids what that phrase meant. They weren’t sure so she replied, “It means you’re going to be in trouble.” Then she said, “You’re going to catch it, Jack. You’re going to catch it, Maggie. You’re going to catch it, Mary.” Big smiles all around! Jack said in a loud, happy voice, “You’re going to catch it, mom!”

Later she asked, “Do you know what asparagus is?” A chorus of “No.” “Well, it’s like a great big piece of grass that people eat. It’s yummy. We could buy some, eat it and pretend that we are cows. Should we do it?” An excited chorus of yeses! “It sort of looks like a spear”, Jack said.

Next, there was a discussion about slop. Jodie told her kids, “If some people don’t like something, they say it tastes like slop. But the better thing to say is, I don’t like this.” Then there was a discussion about manners.

Then a conversation about freedom ensued. The animals in the story were glad they weren’t tied up or penned in. Jodie said, “Isn’t it interesting that everyone wants a little freedom, to be able to choose what they want to do.” The kids had a lot to say about that! They all talked about freedom and choice and responsibility.

At one point in the story, the goose was telling another animal to twist, turn, skip, slide and run. Jodie said, “She isn’t helping him. Why isn’t it helpful?” Jack replied, “She’s teaching him to run away. She is getting him in trouble.”

Eventually, they read something in the book that was unfamiliar, and Jack said, “That part isn’t in the movie”. Then they discussed why things in books aren’t always in the movie. They decided it was good to read the book first and get the whole story before seeing a movie about the book.

This family reading time took about 30 minutes. The ages of the children were 7, 5, and 3. They were totally engaged and involved. They got through one, maybe two chapters. It’s going to take some time to get the whole book read. But getting the book finished isn’t what this mother is trying to accomplish. She’s connecting with her kids. She’s taking 30 minutes to be Present. She was intent on creating that ‘family feeling.’

What did they share:

• The meanings to many words that were unfamiliar and that are important to understanding the story.
• They learned about some character traits such as patience and responsibility.
• They talked about freedom and why it is important and why people like it.
• They learned the meaning of a new phrase; you’re going to catch it.
• They planned the next family activity – to buy, cook and eat asparagus and act like cows.
• They talked about manners and what to do if you are eating and you don’t like something.
• They talked about the difference in written stories and movies and why they might not be the same.

This is a delightful way to read a book to children. It’s fun, it’s interactive, it holds attention, it’s learning at its best. I’ve seen this same type of success with older children and youth. Reading time as a family is not about getting through a book. It is about bonding, laughter, happy feelings and learning together.

For Success Remeber The Difference in Adults and Kids

Remember that adults are product driven, for the most part, and kids are process driven. We want to read, move along at a reasonable pace and get it done, then on to the next book. Kids want to experience something while they’re reading. They want to experience that ‘family feeling’.

What great book have you read with your family recently? I’d love to know. : )

Your shares are the best compliment. : ) 

Work-Presence Balance – Is it doable?

It’s helpful to know and understand that moments of connection can happen during the daily activities we engage in already. It needn’t be out of the ordinary, planned ahead or take extra time.

“In the intervals of the game, while Uncle Henry was pondering over his moves, the little girl looked down at her pets and listened absently to the keen autumnal wind that swept around the old house, shaking the shutters and rattling the windows. A stick of wood in the stove burned in two and fell together with a soft, whispering sound. The lamp cast a steady radiance on Uncle Henry bent seriously over the checker-board, on Molly’s blooming, round cheeks and bright hair, on Aunt Abigail’s rosy, cheerful, wrinkled old face, and on Cousin Ann’s quiet, clear, dark eyes. . . .That room was full to the brim of something beautiful, and Betsy knew what it was. Its name was Happiness.”

These are the final words of a book I enjoy so much, Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield. I liked it as a young girl and I reread it as an adult. Then I read it to my grandchildren.

Presence, What it is and What it Isn’t

One thing I enjoy about this old classic is that it’s all about being Present, what it is and what it isn’t.

Betsy unexpectedly found herself an orphan and went to live with her Aunt Harriet and Aunt Frances. These two dear old ladies were obsessed with taking care of Betsy. If you asked them they would say they were really Present. But they weren’t. They had confused being Present with taking care of all that’s required when you have children. They were stuck in what I like to call management vs. relationship.

Then Betsy goes to live in Vermont, with her mother’s family, the Putney’s. They often seem un-present. But they aren’t. They get Presence – It’s the gift of our full attention, our whole self, nothing held back, and it can take as little as five minutes or less.

Being Present isn’t as much about time as it is about our understanding of how to find moments to be Present when we’re busy, when we’re living our regular everyday lives.

I will never forget the father with teary eyes, at the end of a live event, who said he had always wanted to connect with his children consistently but hadn’t known how. He was short on time!

This father was gone each day working eight or more hours. When he came home it was difficult to connect with each child in a meaningful way. There was so much competing for his time in the few hours they had before bed. There was the deluge of homework, mealtime, and the chaos of getting kids to sleep. Not to mention his need for downtime to unwind from a busy day.

What brought tears to this father’s eyes was the comfort of knowing he could connect in meaningful ways with the time he had. He felt the information was life-changing. Frankly, understanding how to connect in everyday ways is family changing.

A TED Talk on Being Present, Sorta

Nigel Marsh tackled the thorny issue of work-life balance in a TED talk. It addresses head on what that teary-eyed father was feeling. As you listen, change the words work-life balance to work-presence balance. Stick with it to the last 2 ½ minutes and you’ll be glad you did.

That’s the problem that we face the most isn’t it; too busy to really be Present with those we love, hence we feel unbalanced. The corporate executive isn’t the only one who gets caught in this web. It happens to stay at home moms and dads, as well as those who leave home and go to work. It happened to Betsy’s aging aunts.

But with just a tweak in the way we think about what we’re already doing every day we can get a clear vision of what Presence at home, with our children, is really all about.

Today take the time to get the FREE chapter Touchpoints from my book Becoming a Present Parent and begin making this family altering change in your own life. Learn how to be a more Present parent. Then take the time to read this beautiful and cheery little book to your children or grandchildren.

Your ‘shares’ are the best compliment. Thank you!