When I was pregnant with my first child, one of my favorite parenting fantasies was about snuggling up and sharing my favorite stories with my growing family. As a longtime teacher and lifelong book lover, I just knew that I was going to raise a brood of little readers. Three years, three kids, and about 3000 read alouds later, I wasn’t so sure. Or, to put it better, I was still pretty sure, but I was also very, very tired.
Our shelves were full-to-overflowing with books, and my little ones were always eager to enjoy storytime. I was the problem; the magic was missing for me.
Most of us overtired moms can relate to the disorienting feeling of zoning out during Goodnight Moon. We regain conscious thought and wonder to ourselves, “How the heck did I get to ‘Goodnight noises everywhere’? Did I just read that whole story aloud in a fugue state?” Yes, even we book-loving mothers can lose our read-aloud mojo.
About six months ago, I set out to reclaim storytime. Here’s are three ways I set about to get my groove back.
1. Nothing but the Best
Nearly 10,000 children’s books are published each year, and six months ago, a good portion of them seemed to be lingering on my bookshelves. Having a large array of books in the home is a wonderful thing, but only if the books are high quality.
These days, I curate our book collection using a few key criteria. I choose books that meet a certain developmental need that my children have (e.g. sturdy interactive books for busy toddler fingers), contain enriching vocabulary, and present a unique perspective on the world. (Children’s books have a worrisome diversity gap.) Most importantly, I choose books that are beautiful, complex, and that I LOVE. Now, my enthusiasm for books shines through in our family storytimes and my children are exposed to books that expand their experience and respect their intellect.
If you are on Instagram, you can see the curated picture books that I’m sharing with my kids. Join more than 7000 of your friends and follow me at @chickadee.lit.
2. Facilitate Choice
A lot of moms write to me and say they wish their kids were more interested in their read alouds. This is especially frustrating for moms of busy toddlers and active boys. I’ve learned that introducing choice into a family’s storytime culture can help with this.
I now do two things that allow my kids to take more control of their reading. First, I display books with the covers out. Little kids can’t read book titles on spines, and displaying books on picture-frame shelves allows kids to see cover illustrations. Be sure to hang the shelves within their reach.
Second, I set out bins and baskets for books throughout my home. This allows my kids to choose their favorites, naturally rotates their books over time as they wander from room to room, and let’s my 15-month-old indulge in his favorite hobby of taking things out of a container and putting them back in. Over and over.
Connect with me on Pinterest to access my collection of beautiful and functional ideas for children’s book storage.
3. Get Creative
Since I have started curating our books more carefully and allowing my kids to act with increased independence, everyone in my family is more inspired to lead a reading life. This has sparked our creativity in a way that I never predicted.
Because we are reading beautiful and complex books that we all love, we are moved to engage in art and sensory experiences based on our favorite stories. Making art has SO many benefits — improved motor skills, decision-making abilities, language development, and more—and basing art activities on books is a double whammy.
Because books and art are even better together, I teamed up with an arts educator friend to create a series of free resources that helps moms like us pair beautiful books with process-oriented art activities. If you are interested in learning more about how to integrate children’s books and art in your home, check us out online. Access our FREE digital magazine, Creative, Bookish Kids, and our growing library of free book and art resources for families at www.KidArtLit.com.
About Megan: Megan is a veteran reading teacher and educational therapist, a mom to three kids under three-years-old, and a lifelong lover of books. Connect with her on her blog Chickadee Lit or through social media on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
For more from Megan, check out her FREE downloadable resources for creative, bookish parents.