You know when you come across a piece of expert advice and it’s something you already do out of convenience or laziness, and then you feel smug and think: Oh yes, I knew what I was doing all along? That’s what happened when I came across a tip in in Sarah Mackenzie’s wonderful book The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids.
To help make reading aloud a meaningful family ritual, Mackenzie suggests that you should keep books in every room of your house.
Research indicates that kids who live in homes where books are plentiful benefit from the mere presence of books. The fact that books are there has a lasting positive effect on our kids—on the way they think about home, how they see themselves, and the role they see books playing in their lives.
In our house, there are children’s books everywhere, mostly because the bookshelf in my daughter’s small bedroom is overflowing and I haven’t had time to find another storage solution.
But after finishing The Read-Aloud Family, I’ve realised there’s no reason books should be confined to one lonely corner, anyway. Families that value reading keep baskets of books all over the place — in the living room, near the patio door and, yes, even the bathroom.
I know that story time should happen all day long — not just when it’s five minutes before your kid should be falling asleep and everyone is exhausted and you have a list of chores to do (and/or Netflix shows to catch up on) and you’re tempted to “accidentally” skip a few pages here and there. Always having books in sight reminds you to steal moments to read beyond an allotted stretch of time.
In a post on how he tricked himself into reading more books, Lifehacker writer Patrick Allan points out that “there are usable minutes hidden in every nook and cranny throughout the day”.
Because we have books all around the house, my five-year-old will plop down on the sofa, and instead of immediately begging to watch TV, she’ll spot some titles on the side table — Chopsticks, After the Fall, and Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing — and ask, “Mum, can you read this to me?”
When she’s in a cranky mood, I’ll sometimes notice a pile of books next to the backyard door and suggest, “Hey, let’s go outside and read together on the rocking chair.” (It’s a winning calm-down technique, I swear.) On days we arrive to swimming lessons 10 minutes early, I’ll notice there are books in the seat pockets of my car and we might breeze through one before going inside.
We’ve never done reading sticker charts or anything like that — to me, that feels like too much pressure. Instead, we’ve let books spill into every area of our lives — literally — and whether or not that was intentional, I love that stories are always there.