Last year I read a book called The Enchanted Hour about the value of reading aloud to children of all ages. It made me want to start a dedicated story hour with Jack in the evenings (not the same as bedtime stories), but I didn’t want to do this badly enough to actually, you know, do it. But guess what? It happened accidentally and I am thrilled.
It started in late December with our trip to Florida. We didn’t bring any books with us so I suggested to Jack that we look on my iPad for a library book to read through the Libby app. Since I was asking him if he wanted to use an ELECTRONIC DEVICE with me, he was very eager. We ended up reading for much longer than I anticipated, and after that first night we have been spending up to an hour per night reading books on the iPad together before we start the evening nighttime routine.
This works because Jack will take any opportunity to use an electronic device. It feels like a treat to him to use the Libby app, scrolling through books and picking what he wants, pressing the button to borrow the book, and going through our loans shelf to return the ones we have already read. It doesn’t take much to excite a 5-year-old, you know. It’s also a thrill for him when we happen to pick a picture book that has narration.
It also works because you can easily sort books on Libby by availability. I can select picture books and limit the search to only books that are available right then, so Jack won’t get frustrated by seeing books he can’t get. We can also search for our favorites like The Berenstein Bears or Richard Scarry by availability when he wants something familiar (which happens most of the time). As long as Jack maintains a suitable level of control over what we choose and when we return books, he is engaged in the process and it is enjoyable for both of us. It’s also helped us to branch out into longer chapter books and even a 200-page graphic novel (El Deafo, very good).
I am also enjoying this new routine because it takes up some of that dead time between dinner and bedtime that I would normally spend wishing I could do something by myself (like read my own book). We aren’t the type of family to be out and about every afternoon and evening with activities, and we eat early (5-5:30). That leaves us with empty time to kill most nights, and there is only so much independent play you can expect from a Kindergartener. While I still long for my own time, I’m also happy to be doing something enriching and enjoyable with my kid.
I know this would not have worked with physical books, and I am perfectly happy to continue this new habit on the iPad if it gets us reading more (and better) books. Even if that means I have to read Star Wars Sith Wars and other questionable titles. Hooray for accidental habit formation!