My husband and I also read to our kids when they were small. We read to our son (our older child) regularly from the time he was an infant, and it was a nightly ritual by the time he was three. When we moved into our current house, he was two-and-a-half and had bunk beds in his room. The three of us sat on the floor with our backs against the lower bunk and read for about fifteen or twenty minutes.
We started with short books, but progressed to longer chapter books fairly quickly—as much for our adult interest levels as for our son’s. Hatchet by Gary Paulson was an early favorite, as were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Narnia chronicles by C.S. Lewis. We read Tom Sawyer and Johnny Tremain and many other novels.
We ended our bedtime ritual with a sing-along. My husband taught us sea shanties, and I had a book of old folk songs (”Home on the Range” and “Oh Susanna”, for example). None of us have very good voices, but we did all right in harmonizing. Besides, who cared what we sounded like?
Our daughter came along shortly after our son turned three. For the first two years or so, she was not very interested in reading time. She wandered the room while one of the adults read and our son listened. What she liked most was that her bedtime was delayed while we read. In fact, she insisted that our son be tucked in first, so she could make sure he wasn’t getting any special treatment as the older child. Only after his bedroom light was turned off would she go to bed.
Some of our later books, like the Little House books, were designed to appeal more to our daughter. We started on Little Women, but I don’t think we ever made it all the way through.
Our reading times ended about the time our daughter started first grade and our son was in fourth grade. By then, there were too many other demands on our evening hours, like practicing the piano and sports teams.
Besides, both kids could read pretty well by then. In fact, our daughter preferred to read chapter books by herself, rather than parcel the book out one chapter per day—that took too long for her to find out the ending of the story.
Read Aloud Day is March 21 this year. Find a kid—or a kid at heart—and have yourself a read-a-thon. Fifteen minutes of reading out loud to a child each day makes a tremendous difference in a child’s ability to read.
Even if your child can’t read yet. It’s still important.
What bedtime rituals did you have with your children?