When we were just coming into longer stories, a year or so ago, the boys and I listened to Narnia in the car on the way to and from school. They were entranced. We would get into the car and they would immediately ask for me to turn it on. At the end of that little read aloud experience, I decided to introduce them to one of my childhood favorites, Anne of Green Gables. I definitely wasn't naive enough to think that they would love it as much as the swords of the narnian world, but I wasn't quite prepared for their response.
Within ten minutes, they were begging me to turn it off. It became apparently to them very quickly that there would be no swords or giants at Green Gables. They said they'd rather have music. They told me they'd rather just have silence.
Laurin asked me a question a few weeks ago about this, and I just thought I'd respond here for the other boy mamas listening. Particularly for the mommas who had girls first and then find themselves in the world of constantly bouncing balls and wrestling, I think we have to really be intentional about reading longer books to them. Boys don't look like they want stories. But they usually do...they just listen differently. While it often looks like they're not listening, my experience is, they are.
To start with, I have learned that we will all get much further in books and be much more cheerful about it, if I sacrifice what I think they should like or want to listen to, for their actual taste at a particular age. This means, I am still plodding through Thornton Burgess's animal series, because they absolutely love it. I usually look at lists specifically written for boys when I pick out read alouds. Because, while this might not be true for every little person, my boys are pretty classically sword and dragon lovers.
I think Jude could make it through Anne of Green Gables now and actually enjoy it. But it's probably not going to be his childhood favorite and I need to embrace that. He just read the Little House series and loved it. They grow into books and out of books and then maybe back into them. When you're reading aloud to little boys, my advice is not to be afraid to put something down after a night or two and make another choice if there's not a lot of interest.
One of the reasons it's important for them to actually be pulled along by the book, is because I find that it produces external motivation for me. If I'm super tired and the kitchen is still a mess but they are just dying to hear what happens next, I'm more likely to take an extra 10 minutes to read to them. (Even better, if I'm also dying to know what happens next.)
On the "whens," we do occasionally read during the day time, while they play with blocks or legos. I hope this time will increase when we're out of school this summer. The better part of our read aloud investment, though, is right before bed. We have a bed time snack at 7:30pm in their room, usually apples or something fairly neat. Generally, this is David's 15 minutes to read while they snack and play with their toys or get their pajamas on. Currently, they are reading My Father's Dragon. I won't deny wildness during this time. It is wild. Then, after the teeth are brushed, the kitchen is fairly clean, and Asher is in his bed, I climb into his bed and read to Silas for another 10 minutes or so. Usually, just a chapter but it's become the sweetest little ritual. He won't let me forget about it.
It's surprising how quickly you can move through a chapter book if you do this every night.
And as for motivation, the research astounds me when it comes to the benefits of reading aloud. It's like a wonder drug in childhood for all sorts of good things. If you want to hear some facts that will blow your mind, listen to this podcast The Research behind Reading Aloud with Dr. Joseph Price. Or pick up the book my brother-in-law gave me this summer entitled The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I think you'll be convinced!
Read on with those wild little men!