My Practice of Mothering: In Which We Read Aloud Together, and Do All The Voices

EmergingMummy.com
I’m joining in wonderful Emerging Mummy Sarah’s Practices of Parenting Carnival today. Sarah has done a series on her own practices in the journey of mothering her “tinies.” She has been gracious and generous with her words, offering ideas that have worked for her in the dailiness of nourishing and nurturing. And now she has invited us to join in.

Of course I read to my babies, in this book-rich house, read Sandra Boynton and Dr. Seuss and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. And with my preschool sons I delved into longer stories, pioneering the West with the Ingalls family and laughing and groaning as Ramona filled the sink with toothpaste. But inwardly, without thinking about it very much, I thought of reading as something that I’d hand off to my kids; when my boys learned to read on their own, that’s how reading would happen for them in our house.

But then I read Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook, and my vision of sharing books was changed forever. I was wowed by Trelease’s research that showed how reading aloud to our children, and continuing to read aloud long after they become fluent readers themselves. deepens and enhances their love for books and family connection. Spending time and energy reading together communicates louder than any lecture the value and strength of reading.

But what wins my heart, over and over, what keeps me searching for the next read aloud and opening it in the pre-dawn before school and over the emptied plates after supper is not the compelling research. It’s not even that I now have two boys who are ardent readers, though I credit our many read-aloud hours for their love of books.

There is power in sharing story, in the immediacy in sharing it at the same time. We laugh at humor and absurdity and root for the characters we love.  We wait together, breath held, to resolve cliffhangers. They’ve had to wait for me to pull it together, overcome by the emotion of a passage. I’ve stretched myself, sometimes at the end of a tiring day, to bring a tale to them with all the voices and inflection and passion it deserves. And always, always, it gives back more energy than it takes.

Keeping reading aloud together as part of our family time keeps us discovering forgotten places together, keeps us all vicariously experiencing some of the same adventures and dreaming the same dreams. As my boys, now eight and eleven, grow into more discovery of themselves, their Maker and Creation, we have as companions characters who are doing the same, characters we get to know alongside one another.

Finally, reading aloud together slows us down. It is gloriously inefficient,  and the better we are at it, the longer the dishes sit in the evening, and the longer, in the summer, we sprawl in pajamas into the mid-morning hours. It cannot be hurried, and I’ve come to value those things that cannot be hurried. As it slows time to the cadence of language and the turn of a page, this simple, simple practice deepens it too. We are all here, in the moments we share in the grip of a good story, and we keep coming back for more.

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32 thoughts on “My Practice of Mothering: In Which We Read Aloud Together, and Do All The Voices

  1. Trish

    Missy, we loved read alouds, too. My favorites were the Ingalls books, the Narnia books, Carry On Mr. Bowditch, and Little Men.by Louisa May Alcott. We found that read alouds were not only a fun thing to do together, but the practice helped them develop a richer vocabulary and filled them with the needed language skills to be good writers. Good stuff!

    Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      I agree Trish– and I like how with read alouds, you can go a step farther, either in content or in vocabulary, sentence structure, etc, than the kids are ready to do on their own. I’ve appreciated to chance to stretch their skills together and in a non-threatening way.

      Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Yep, Beth, we are on the same page– har har! I would love it if you would share, maybe in a future post, a list of the books you guys have enjoyed together– I am thinking of doing the same here. Thanks for coming by!

      Reply
  2. Lisa McKay

    Oooh, love this. I’ve been reading aloud to my own baby. So far (at six months) he’s much more interested in eating the books than tracking with the stories, but I think it’s good to start young.

    Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Lisa– Thanks for visiting and taking time to comment. It is a lovely thought that your little one will not remember a time when books together were not a special part of the day you share– even if they’re mostly tasty now. 🙂 These early days form the practice for both of you.
      Blessings!

      Reply
  3. kingdomcivics

    Love it! We are a read-aloud family here, and what would stories be without the voices (I made myself hoarse doing the scream in “The Pigeon Wants a Puppy”–the kids LOVED it.) I especially love your reflections on the power of stories that we share together. So true!

    Reply
  4. mkk

    “There is power in sharing story, in the immediacy in sharing it at the same time. We laugh at humor and absurdity and root for the characters we love. We wait together, breath held, to resolve cliffhangers. They’ve had to wait for me to pull it together, overcome by the emotion of a passage. I’ve stretched myself, sometimes at the end of a tiring day, to bring a tale to them with all the voices and inflection and passion it deserves. And always, always, it gives back more energy than it takes.”

    Beautiful! I love the power of story, and sharing them. I never really was encouraged to share mine growing up. I think that there’s something about cultivating one’s voice here.

    I can’t wait to read aloud together with my tinies.

    Reply
  5. Jennifer Hoffman

    “As it slows time to the cadence of language and the turn of a page, this simple, simple practice deepens it too. We are all here, in the moments we share in the grip of a good story, and we keep coming back for more.” Oh.my.goodness – the beauty of these words!!! Thank you for this inspiring, insightful post! Excuse me while I go grab a book to read to my toddler!

    Reply
  6. Sarah Bessey (@sarahbessey)

    Do you have any idea how much I love this? SO MUCH. Wow! I never thought of it as once I learned to read, it was always a solitary thing for me. But I see how much the tinies love to read together and I love to do it so yes, this is going in my “toolbox” for parenting. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Thanks Sarah– I LOVED your practices series and it is so much fun to join in and read others ideas as well.
      I was also a solitary reader as a child– and I still love to see my guys lost in a book, but I also love to get lost in a book together.
      🙂

      Reply
  7. Beth

    Thanks so much for this…so true and so well-written. Reading is big in this house, too. Our kids our preschoolers at the moment and I love how at 2 and 4 they can appreciate so many of the same books. In fact, although I didn’t write anything for Sarah’s Carnival, the one “practice” that sprang to mind when I read her ‘call for practices’ was this:

    I try never to say ‘no’ when one of them asks for a story.

    Of course, there are times when I ask them to wait for a few minutes til I finish something but that is one of the simplest practices that I think helps make mothering enjoyable for me (and them!).

    Reply
  8. Lynette

    I love to read-aloud to/with my children. It is our favourite part of homeschooling! We use sonlight curriculum; the catalogue is a great resource for read-aloud ideas, even if you do not homeschool your children.

    I love reading all snuggled up on the couch, or with the kids sprawled around the room with their hands busy but their attention strong. I have great memories of one spring spending many days sitting on a bench in our garden nursing one babe and reading out loud, while my toddler dug in the dirt and my son sat in the pear tree.

    Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Lynette– thanks for reminding me about the Sonlight catalogue– I am always chasing the next good read-aloud!

      I love your beautiful memory of spring days spent reading outside– reminds me I need to move reading time outside when the weather is nice!

      Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Thanks Robin– and my big boys still want their reading time with me– at nearly nine and just past eleven, they were asking for read aloud time before school this morning. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Kate

    My mom was a librarian and I remember her reading to us every night well into our middle school years. It is something I want to continue with my girls, and I love that you do it with your boys! Very nice.

    Reply
  10. tonia

    If you can read a Jacques book with all the voices, you are my. hero. 🙂 Maybe you can come over and do Rob Roy for us. Totally defeated me.

    Love you, Missy. Love who you are.

    Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Love YOU Tonia.

      And in the interest of full disclosure, the boys were an eager 7 and 5 when we read Redwall, so if a mamma mixed her brogue, Cockney and uppercrust accents on occasion, it might have gone by them.

      Not sure I could get away with it now. . .

      Reply
  11. Laura

    I loved my mom reading aloud to us! Have you read, “The Reading Promise”? It’s all about a girl and her dad and how they read aloud to each other for something like 3000 days. It’s a great read and there’s also a really extensive list at the end of all the books they read. Thanks for reminding me that this is something I definitely want to do with my daughter!

    Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Laura– I happened upon The Reading Promise awhile ago on the two week shelf at the library, and thought is was amazing. I love those book lists at the end– Jim Trelease has some good lists at the back of the Read Aloud Handbook.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  12. janaecharlotte

    My mom grew up doing this for/with us, and I am forever grateful to her. Thank you for the reminder of how precious it is.

    My heart skips a beat at this sentence “I’ve come to value those things that cannot be hurried”. Yes.

    Reply
  13. Lisa

    Found your post from Sarah’s link today, and I wanted to thank you for sharing!
    My husband and I are expecting our first small one any day now. We read aloud to each other most evenings, and are hoping to keep the tradition alive as our family expands. It’s so encouraging to read about another family’s experience!

    Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Ah, Lisa, you are writing to me in a precious time– wishing you a safe and beautiful arrival for your little one.
      I think it is lovely that your child will be welcomed into such a peaceful and life-giving thing that is already part of your family life.
      Many blessings!

      Reply
  14. erin

    I am so inspired by this! I did not read a lot of the “greats” when I was a kid. I would love to read them aloud to my kids. We can hear the stories for the first time together!

    Reply
    1. adailyportion Post author

      Erin,
      Despite being a voracious reader as a child, there were missing books in my history too. At first, when we started read alouds, all I thought about was sharing the ones I’d loved as a kid. But there is a different kind of magic in discovering great stories together. Have fun!

      Reply

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