Do you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have time to read to my kids!”?
Or, do you think, “Kristin’s life must be totally different from mine, because I can’t see how she does all of that reading aloud!”
If you’ve thought anything like that before, you aren’t alone: I am constantly asked variations of “How do you do so much reading to your kids?!?”
(As a side note, I’m also constantly asked variations of the question, “Will you review my self published erotic novel?” I get emailed that question at least a few times a week. Nobody warned me that after I posted a few reviews online I’d get sent all of this stuff to review that isn’t quite right for my audience…to put it mildly. Who knew?)
Seriously though, how DO I read aloud so much to my kids? Even though this question came up a lot, I didn’t have a great answer. So, I sat down and thought about it, and came up with the three things that have led to reading aloud becoming an integral part of our lives.
motivation – a motivating force, stimulus, or influence : incentive, drive (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Why do we humans do anything, really? There’s something motivating us.
Want an incentive to read aloud? Let’s turn to one of my favorite things: SCIENCE.
Basically, the statistics show a strong correlation between being read to and doing well at school. I would like my kids to do well in school.
And let us not forget about the wonderful emotional benefits of snuggling up with your little monsters and a good book, too. There’s not much better than howling with laughter together over your latest read aloud.
You need to find whatever it is that will motivate you to go to the library and check out a book, and actually crack it open. It might be these science based facts, or it might be something else.
If you’ve read Big Books, Little Ears for awhile, you know that my personal motivation for introducing chapter books to my kids was that I knew the way I was parenting wasn’t working, and I needed to try something that would connect us as a family. Bonding with my little people was a really big motivation for me!
There’s a lot of incentive to read aloud! If you take a moment to think about it, you’ll find what motivates you to make reading a habit.
So, is that the answer to “How does Kristin read so much?”
Am I just super motivated?
A worthwhile motivation is important to get you started, but it won’t be enough if you’re just depending on that motivated feeling to stick around! Spoiler alert: motivation alone isn’t enough to change how your family spends time together. You have to use that motivation to have discipline!
discipline – to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
It is HARD to be disciplined and force yourself to do a task. Willpower is not something that we humans have been automatically blessed with in great abundance. (Remember Eve, anyone? Oh, or me and salted carmel? Or…really, anybody in all of the history of the world.)
The American Psychological Association found “lack of willpower” is regularly the number one reason survey takers said they couldn’t make positive changes. I guess it’s comforting that I’m not alone in my struggle to be disciplined…but, also, BUMMER.
I wish I had a lovely example of a time in my life when I was disciplined at reading aloud but, honestly, this one is hard for me. It’s just straight up hard to be disciplined! That whole “exercise…in self control” part of the definition…that’s not easy for me! Even with great motivating facts, I still struggle with being disciplined over the long haul.
As I was pondering what discipline looks like, I was struck by the example of Charlie on Bear & Squirrel‘s Facebook page. (Unfamiliar with the Christian parenting resource Bear & Squirrel? Check them out here.)
I was scrolling social media one morning, when I saw his post about getting up early (like, EARLY-early) to read the Bible.
I’m going to be honest, my brain said something along the lines of, “Nice. He’s up today. Mr. Showoff over here on social media with his highlighted Bible. And no whining about how early it is. We’ll see how long that lasts.”
(My morning snarky-ness is strong, and only exacerbated by the conviction that I should have been spending my early morning doing something more productive than scrolling social media.)
Then I realized that his posting of super early Bible reading pictures wasn’t new. It’s actually a thing he does A LOT.
Confession: I struggle with self control and discipline. When I saw someone getting up so early to put in hard work, I was super impressed. There’s the motivation that getting in the Word early will help you train up your child, but then there’s the discipline of actually doing it. If you’re looking for an example of discipline, this guy is it!
Discipline is acting on your motivation, day in and day out.
For our family and reading aloud, being disciplined about reading aloud meant going to the library weekly. Discipline meant finding the specific time when we could read together.
(Spoiler alert, it wasn’t bed time. Bed time over here is crazy. I talk about how you don’t have to read at bedtime when I discuss the read aloud myths you NEED to stop believing.)
Discipline meant reading even when I was exhausted and just wanted to let the kids watch another episode of Wild Kratts because it’s educational, and sort of Biblical because God created the animals. My rationalization game is strong, y’all.
But fighting that rationalizing part of our brains is what discipline is. Discipline is not glamorous. It’s not easy. It’s hard. But being disciplined about something that is good for your family is so worth it!
However, as important as discipline is, it’s not the answer to the question “How do you read aloud so much?”
Because if I’m being honest with myself, if it took serious discipline for YEARS to read aloud to my kids as much as I do, I would have given up a long time ago.
Training yourself to do what you’re supposed to do eventually makes discipline easier. The hard work of discipline becomes much easier as it becomes a habit.
habit – a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
Discipline does get easier once that good behavior becomes a habit. This is something that doesn’t get talked about very much.
For example, you never see those super fit people hawking their latest gym equipment saying, “Honestly, I just worked out after breakfast everyday for a few months, and now I do it automatically. Now it’s part of my routine and I don’t really need all that much discipline to keep doing it.”
They probably don’t say things like that because they want to motivate you to buy their DVDs. Plus, it doesn’t sound all that great to admit that habituation has made a hard task easier.
I think it’s time to embrace the fact that forming good habits can change our families! The willpower required goes way down once our brain has rewired the new behavior we’ve been so disciplined to do into a habit.
I had always heard that the magic number of days to make a habit was 21. Unfortunately, science says that only works for very simple tasks. In fact, one study found that the average number of days it took participants to create a true habit was 66 days.
I’m not telling your this to discourage you. I know 66 days sounds like a super long time. However, I’m telling you this to encourage you! Yeah, 66 days is a super long time to gut it out and be disciplined, but it’s not as long as the next 10 years. If God hadn’t made us creatures of habit, then you would have to have that massive discipline to read aloud every day forever!
Use the way our brains are wired to your advantage. Just think, once your family can make reading a habit, it won’t take as much discipline to read aloud together!
“How do you read so much to your kids?”
Honestly, habituation is the answer. This is how I read so much to the kids. It’s become a habit.
Now that it’s a habit, it’s much easier to read aloud! I don’t have to find time, because going to the library and reading aloud is just what we do. It’s like eating breakfast or brushing teeth.
Reading aloud doesn’t take forcing or thinking about, it’s part of our family life.
I had motivation to be disciplined with it when I was struggling with mom-life, but now it’s a habit. And I love it!
Make Reading a Habit
So, to answer the question, “How do you read so much?” the answer is, I was motivated, disciplined, and now it’s a habit!
There was no magic pill that made reading aloud a consistent part of our schedule. Gathering to read became habitual after weeks of being disciplined with our time together.
You can make reading aloud to your kids a habit, too!! Seriously, if me, and my lack of discipline can stay motivated long enough to make reading aloud a habit, you can CERTAINLY do it!
If you’re ready to make reading a habit, join the FREE three week long email course to get daily MOTIVATION, encouragement and printable resources to stay DISCIPLINED, and a chart to keep track of your progress as you build this new HABIT! It’s time for a new habit in your family!