No time to read to your child? 6 ideas to try

“If you read with your kids, they’ll grow up to be readers.”

“Kids whose parents read to them every day have better language skills.”

You’ve probably heard things like this or seen it talked about on TV or in the news. You may have even gotten free books from your child’s school or health clinic. And it’s true. Reading out loud to kids helps them with language skills.

But it’s also true that with work schedules, childcare, school, and the other realities of daily life, it can be hard. Your family may be too tired or stressed out at night. You may not have the time to read aloud to your child every day. And that’s OK. 

There are other ways to make sure your child has the chance to get in reading time. Here are a few ideas for busy families.

1. Go to story time at the library.

Story time is when a librarian, community member, or a visiting author reads a book aloud to a group of kids at the library. Almost all public libraries have free story times.

It’s OK if you’re not the one reading to your child. At story time, kids get to hear fun books. They listen to the different ways people read aloud and see that lots of people are excited about books. They also have the chance to interact with other kids and ask questions. And while they’re being read to, you get time to relax or even work on your own at the library.

2. Use audiobooks (or record yourself).

Some schools and libraries lend audiobook CDs, tapes, or even online files along with the hard copy of the book. Start up the audiobook, and your child can listen while you get other things done.

If you have a smartphone or computer handy, you can even record yourself reading your child’s favorite book. To make the recording more fun, talk about the pictures and tell your child when it’s time to turn the page.

3. Think beyond books.

Books aren’t the only things you can read to or with your child. Think about reading a recipe with your child as you cook a meal. Or read the grocery flyers together as you make your shopping list or clip coupons. It can help your child learn new words and see how reading is part of everyday life. 

4. Lean on friends and family.

Grandparents and other loved ones may be flattered if you ask them to read to your child. If they can’t be there in person, call them. You can use a free video call app, like Google Hangouts. Just make sure your child has a hard copy of the book on hand to read along.

Also, check to see if there’s a teacher or staff member at your child’s school who reads aloud via Facebook Live, like this principal does on “Tucked-In Tuesdays.”

5. Find kid reading buddies.

Don’t forget that older cousins, neighborhood kids, and siblings can read to younger kids, too. Many kids like to show off that they can do something littler kids haven’t quite mastered yet. It gives older kids a chance to practice reading aloud and younger kids a chance to hang out with a “bigger buddy" (and look forward to being one when they’re older).

No other kids around to read to yours? Visit a site like KidsRead2Kids, where kids can watch videos of books read aloud by other kids.

6. Take advantage of in-between times.

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend in waiting rooms for appointments? Or waiting to pick up one child from an activity while you have your other kids with you?

Make it a habit to bring a small book or two in your bag or back pocket. When you have a moment, take it out and read with your child. Or, even better, have your child read to you. If you don’t have a book on hand, read the posters on the walls or tell stories to each other. 

Snuggling up with your child to read a book is great, but it’s not always possible. If you’re stressed out about finding the time to read to your child, try one or more of these ideas. Reading to your child doesn’t have to be a stressful experience — it can be a way to connect and have fun. By having different ways to make that happen, you may encourage your child to find other creative ways to read.


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