For almost a year now I’ve been listening to Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival podcast. Unsurprisingly, the focus on her podcast is about reading aloud to your children. She has insights and tips, as well as interviews with a variety of authors. Although reading to the girls comes fairly naturally to my husband and me, it’s inspired me to think about reading aloud as something we’ll do for the rest of our lives rather than just while the girls are little.
So when Sarah (she’s so perky and lovable on her podcast that I feel like we’re on a first-name basis) announced that she was releasing a book entitled The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections With Your Kids, I actually preordered it. Long story short: It was money well spent.
We all know that reading to our babies, toddlers, and young children is important. Even doctors remind us to read to them at well-child checks. But how important is it really? And why is it important? And do we really need to keep reading to children once they are able to read to themselves? Sarah tackles these questions in her book. She states,
Reading aloud with our kids is indeed the best use of our time and energy as parents. It’s more important than just about anything else we can do (28).
Throughout her book, she lauds the power of story to build our children’s character and expose them to the world around them. Likewise, she discusses how stories can create a bond between family members, creating references for inside jokes and experiences.
Additionally, Sarah advocates that reading aloud isn’t just so we can eventually teach our children how to read. Instead,
Even more important than teaching our kids the actual skill of reading is to cultivate a deep love of stories. After all, a child must love reading if he is to do it of his own volition throughout his life (70).
Her belief is that if you create a love a stories in children, a child will eventually learn how to read. That means that the struggling reader should be read to just as much–if not more–as a child who is reading at an “average” level.
The first part of the book emphasizes that reading aloud is important and that our duty as parents is to instill the love of reading into our children. Thankfully, Sarah doesn’t just beat us over the head with this goal without providing guidance on how to achieve it. The second half of the book gives tips and strategies on how to make read-aloud time meaningful. Likewise, she includes read-aloud book recommendations for all ages, even teenagers.
Many of her tips are very practical and she encourages us to make our goals small, because even small goals can bring about the love of reading. For example, she starts our read-aloud goal to be just 10 minutes a day because,
If I read for ten minutes every day, I’ll have read with my kids for sixty hours over the course of a year (109-110).
10 minutes seems too small to be a “real” goal, but sixty hours sure is an impressive amount of time. She goes on to explain that even if we read to our kids for 10 minutes every other day, that’s still 30 hours of read-aloud time. Sometimes it just takes someone to do the math to see how these small goals can make a big difference. Some of her additional insights include:
- How to create a book club culture at home
- What read aloud time will actually look like (and it’s not your children sitting quietly at your feet while you read).
- How to choose books for your kids
- How to ask questions that will create a bookish conversation with your kids
- Why audiobooks count as reading
After reading The Read-Aloud Family, I feel more motivated than ever to read to Babykins and Sweet Pea. Heck, I feel more motivated to read for my own personal pleasure! And now I have a book to back my belief that reading is more than just a skill, it’s a way of life.
In February, the girls and I took our first long road trip since the previous October (note: the definition of a long road trip is a drive that requires a bathroom stop). I already knew bathrooms were a challenge for Babykins. She’s still small enough that she’s uncomfortable sitting on a regular-sized toilet and the echos of most public bathrooms make her nervous. On this particular trip, I had already given up on getting her to pee on an actual toilet–the little travel potty in the back of the van would suffice for her. However, I still needed a real bathroom.
Since it was lunchtime, I found a McDonald’s for us to stop at. I strapped Sweet Pea into the stroller, helped Babykins out of the van, and cheerfully announced, “Okay, Mommy has to go potty before we order food!” We traipsed inside and found the bathroom.
In typical traveling-solo-with-littles fashion, my best laid plans went to pot immediately. The handicap stall, the stall big enough for the stroller to squeeze into, was out of order. Since I had already unloaded the girls out of the van, we were committed to this stop and I really needed to use the restroom. Thankfully, it was a small bathroom that only had one other stall. I parked the stroller in front of the stall door, firmly told Babykins not to move away from the stroller, and locked myself into the stall.
Sweet Pea started crying as soon as I stepped out of her sight. “It’s okay, Sweet Pea,” I crooned, “Momma’s right here!” Sweet Pea just cried harder. “Babykins, can you play patty-cake with Sweet Pea?” I called out.
“Otay!” her little voice replied, “Pat cake, pat cake. . .” Then disaster struck.
As I mentioned earlier, it was a small bathroom. When Babykins moved to the front of the stroller, she stepped directly under the hand dryer. The AUTOMATIC hand dryer. The dryer roared to life directly above Babykins’s head.
I rushed to finish my business as both girls started screaming. “Babykins, move away from the dryer!” I shouted. Then the automatic toilet flushed and both girls screamed louder. I burst out of the stall and Babykins attempted to scale my leg like a terrified cat while Sweet Pea thrashed in the stroller.
I can only imagine what horrors people outside of the bathroom thought were occuring as I tried to calm my hysterical girls down. After a few minutes, I managed to convince Babykins that I needed to wash my hands but I would dry them on my pants. I wouldn’t make the hand dryer turn on. She continued to tremble by my leg as I changed an equally perturbed Sweet Pea on the changing table. A quick text message asking a friend to use the bathroom at her house as our next potty break ensured that we would not have to endure another torturous public bathroom experience on this particular trip.
Consequently, our road trips from now on will be limited to a) trips that my husband can come with us or b) places that have friends along the way so we can use their bathrooms.
A stormy afternoon yesterday gave us the perfect opportunity to make thunder cake. What is thunder cake? It’s the cake that a grandma and her granddaughter make as a storm rolls in in Patricia Polacco’s book Thunder Cake. The book tells a lovely story of a grandmother-granddaughter bond and what bravery actually is, a perfect read for Babykins since storms now make her nervous.
After the girls and I read Thunder Cake, I pulled out the ingredients for the cake and we set to work. The full recipe can be found at the back of the book, but I’ll share the “secret” ingredient now: Tomatoes (specifically, pureed tomatoes)!
I was skeptical about how a cake with tomatoes would taste. I like tomatoes well enough, but in a cake? Really? Oh my goodness, the cake is delicious (even despite the fact that I didn’t add and cream the ingredients one at a time. It’s hard trying new recipes when you have little helpers). My issue with homemade cake is that it’s usually dry but this cake was wonderfully moist. My husband said that the cake was birthday-cake worthy–high praise from a guy who would prefer an ice cream cake.
The only problem is that I fear I have set a precedence for making cake every time it storms. Although maybe that isn’t such a bad idea!
Growing up, my family of 5 sat together unless my dad or brother needed to usher. I figured that’s how church worked–unless you had extended family in church, you sat with your parents. Consequently, I always imagined that all my children would sit with me in the pew on Sunday mornings.
Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. . .
I did solo wrangle Babykins and Sweet Pea for over a year. But as Sweet Pea gets older, she gets wigglier and louder. I often have to take her to the back of the church during the sermon. And while Babykins generally sits quietly in the pew, taking her to the back with Sweet Pea and me meant she started crawling on the floor and talking loudly.
I asked our church grandma if I could leave Babykins with her when I needed to take Sweet Pea to the back. After a few weeks of this method, Babykins was begging to sit with Granny the entire service.
I was hesitant–after all, children should sit with their parents–but Babykins had also started to feed off of Sweet Pea’s antics and would try to cling to me as I wrestled with her sister. Truth be told, Babykins behaves better when separated from her sister. Now she peacefully sits with Granny. When I glance back at her, she’s either observing what is happening around her or eating her snack.
As for Sweet Pea, she’s much more of a handful in church than her sister was. Most of this is because she’s so much louder than Babykins! I generally let her be as loud as she wants during most of the service (as long as she’s not screaming for screaming’s sake) and try to keep her quieter during the readings, sermon, and prayer of the church.
I’m still making it through church without a designated “busy bag”, but I do pack her a snack, a couple of crayons, a doll, and a book for Sunday mornings. Sometimes I can keep her quieter during the sermon by whispering the text of the book I’ve brought (I usually choose a book by Joni Walker or a Kloria Publishing book). Often I need to take her to the back during the last few minutes of the sermon because she gets too wiggly to contain in the pew. Sundays are exhausting now, but my hope is that if I keep on patiently teaching her how to “do” church, she’ll be as good as her sister in a couple of years.
This year I committed myself to completing the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. In early January, I listed my book choices. Some of my undecided categories remain empty (for now), but I’ve decided to either read The Joy Luck Club or The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan for a book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own. My mom recommended this author since her book themes often focus on mother and daughters. I’ve read a book or 2 by Amy Tan before, but not since high school.
Anyway, I checked 2 books off my list in January: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling (A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection) and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stuart (A book you can read in a day).
I wasn’t overly impressed by The Cursed Child, but I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt that it might be better received as a play. The characters just didn’t have the same depth that they had in the original series. Likewise, the plot seemed very rushed to me since the play moved through several years at Hogwarts. I am very curious why Rowling opted to make this a play rather than a book.
The Mysterious Benedict Society receives an “okay” rating from me. Frankly, I was a little bored going through the story. The premise of the story seemed interesting enough, but I found myself often looking at how much I had left to read before I was done.
I didn’t complete any books for the challenge in February (I know I have 4 more days, but it ain’t happening). This doesn’t mean there has been lack of progress! I’ve been plugging away through The Pillars of the Earth (A book that’s more than 500 pages) and I’m now over halfway through. I have a couple of my reading challenge books reserved on my Kindle, so I’m hoping I can check off a few more categories in March!
It gets cold where we live. Recently we had a 20 degree day that felt downright balmy (and yesterday’s high of 40 degrees was practically tropical!). However, I strongly believe in the benefits of fresh air on a daily basis, so I’ve been dragging the girls outside despite the frigid temps. Layers are our friends around here.
After a couple of months of bundling the girls up, I feel confident that you too can get your kids outside in just 20 “simple” steps!
- The preschooler sits on the potty and the toddler gets a diaper change (you don’t want to hear “I have to go pee!” at the end of this process!).
- I put on long underwear, the preschooler is sent to put on an extra pair of pants and socks. I put an extra pair of leggings and socks on the toddler.
- Find the preschooler sitting in her room. Remind her that she was supposed to be getting pants and socks on.
- Answer “Why?” question.
- Gather snowpants, coats, mittens, hats, and scarves.
- Tell the preschooler that she has to put on her snowpants before putting on her boots and yes, she must wear her snow boots and not her sandals.
- Find the toddler who has now wandered away with one of her sister’s mittens. Wrestle her into her snowpants.
- Remind the preschooler that she was supposed to be putting on her snowpants and not her coat.
- Answer 5 “Why?” questions from the preschooler.
- Put on my own snowpants.
- Find the toddler who has wandered off with her sister’s boot and put on her scarf and hat.
- Tell the preschooler to put on her scarf before her mittens.
- Answer “Why?” question. Answer “Why?” question again.
- Help preschooler put on her mittens, coat, and hat.
- Find toddler to make sure she isn’t in grave peril.
- Help preschooler put on her boots. Send her into the garage so she doesn’t collapse from heat exhaustion before her sister and I are ready to go outside.
- Find toddler again and stuff her into her coat. Shove her mittens on her hands and boots on her feet.
- Try to find toddler’s hat as she howls at the injustice of having to wear snowgear. Put hat on toddler and watch her collapse from my cruelty.
- Finish putting on my scarf, hat, coat, gloves, and boots.
- Pick up toddler and join preschooler in the garage. Release the girls outside and hope we are outside longer than it took us to get ready.
For the record, I’m usually exhausted by the time I go outside. The silver lining is that first spring-like day is going to feel magical!*
*Really, this insane mission of taking littles outside in all weather is to create hardy kids. Fresh air is good for us, fresh air is good for us, fresh air is good for us. . .
I am currently convinced that Sweet Pea will, in fact, be the first child to go to college still nursing.
I kid. . mostly. . .
I generally try not to think too much about germs. Around here, I generally encourage some hand washing and try to prevent the girls from doing anything too disgusting like licking the toilet, but otherwise just let the whole germ thing play out naturally. What this really means is that you will see my kids eat food off of our floor and there may be a fair amount of dirt-eating occurring. Whatever happens, I try to be chill about it.
Well, until everyone starts losing their ever lovin’ minds about influenza.
Initially I try to ignore the reports. Flu? What flu? There’s no such thing as the flu? We go about our business as usual–shopping trips, playdates, doctor visits, etc. But after a few weeks of the spread of influenza it’s hard for even me to ignore the stories.
Rationally, I know that our little family is healthy and therefore unlikely to have severe complications from the flu. But I think fear wriggles into any parent’s heart whenever they hear of children dying from influenza. So I get nervous and start questioning leaving the house. Should I reschedule the well-child visit? Should I find a babysitter for the girls while I go grocery shopping? Should we just give up and stay inside until May?
Ultimately, I’ve decided to go with some slight precautions with prayer. So this past week my husband and I were trying to make a plan for his day off. “What should we do on Friday?” he asked.
I thought and then said, “Well, I need to do the monthly grocery run. We could make it a family outing and go to Chick-fil-a afterward. The girls could play in the play area since it will be cold again.”
My husband replied, “That sounds okay.”
I made a face. “Oh wait, flu. . .”
We decided to avoid the indoor play area. Instead, I just took Babykins to Aldi with me so we could have a Mother-Daughter outing while my husband had some bonding time with Sweet Pea. Babykins is mostly over the put-everything-in-mouth phase, so I figured the grocery store wouldn’t be too bad.
We got through Aldi without an incident. However, as we were driving back I heard Babykins’s little voice say, “Look, Mommy, look!” I glanced in the review mirror and saw this:
The moral of the story: Kids are gross and we’re all going to get influenza.
Did you not learn last year? Did you not remember how little time it takes to input tax receipts if you do it on a monthly basis? Could you refrain from repeating the same mistake every year?
Apparently not, because here we are in January and I’m staring at a massive pile of housing and work receipts. What would have just taken 10 extra minutes once a month is now a time consuming project.
You seriously have enough to do with taxes already. Why are you making this harder on yourself? Just do your monthly receipts NOW and bask in a job completed next January! Or just keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll revisit this conversation in about a year.
It’s a date? Oh, okay, great. See you in 2019. I’ll just keep working on 2017 taxes. . .
I used to not be into New Year’s resolutions. It made much more sense for me to try to make improvements either when the fancy struck me or at the beginning of the school year. However, it’s now been several years since my life has followed a school year schedule. Consequently, I finally get why people choose January to make resolutions. You might as well try to make a change while everyone else is excited about self improvement!
One of my goals this year is to read more. In this season of life, it’s easy to go days or weeks without reading anything more substantial than a picture book (don’t get me wrong–picture books can be awesome, but I’m trying to aim a little higher here). Consequently, I’ve opted to participate in the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge. The goal is to read 12 books–1 for each category–to motivate readers to read amazing books. Here is what I’ve planned to read thus far:
-A classic you’ve been meaning to read: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (I was supposed to read it for a Facebook book club this past summer and never did)
-A book recommended by someone with great taste: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds (Recommended by my literature teacher-friend from vicarage)
-A book in translation: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-A book nominated for an award in 2018: TBD
-A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling and Jack Thorne
-A book you can read in a day: The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stuart (I’m not even sure how long this book is, I just picked a children’s chapter book that I’ve been meaning to read)
-A book that’s more than 500 pages: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (I technically started this book in 2017, but I was less than 150 pages in and it’s almost 1,000 pages)
-A book by a favorite author: TBD (Can you believe I have a hard time deciding who is my favorite author? Maybe I’ll reread something by Austen or perhaps find something by Jasper Fforde or Neil Gaiman)
-A book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller: TBD (I hate talking to people)
-A banned book: Fahrenheit 451
-A memoir, biography, or book of creative nonfiction: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
-A book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own: TBD
Additionally, you are given several different printables to help track reading when you sign up for the challenge. This year I’m focusing on trying to read a hard copy of a book every day (I’ve already missed some days, but that just means there’s room for improvement!). I really upped my reading in 2017 by actually figuring out how to checkout books on my Kindle and reading while nursing Sweet Pea, but I can only read certain types of books on a screen–nothing too dense. By taking the time to read hard copies, that will allow me to tackle some “harder” reads.
I’m so excited to participate in this challenge! I’ve been plugging away at Pillars of the Earth and I just checked out The Mysterious Benedict Society on my Kindle.
Do you have any reading goals for 2018?