Here are three things you should know about me:
- I am really terribly lazy.
- I LOVE new and great ideas.
- I have a short attention span.
All these traits mean a couple of things. I am always in search of an “easy button”. I really enjoy being part of a good “brainstorm”. I am terrible at actualizing things in the manner that I imagined them. I am great at starting to set up new systems. But I really have to push myself on the follow through. I like to see result RIGHTNOOOOOOW! (In fact, it’s very difficult for me to write a “series” here on the blog, because usually I like to just write and hit publish. None of this crafting-and-polishing-for-weeks business for moi.) You know the mentality of “Why dust every day when you can dust once a month and feel like you live in a Pledge commercial”? No? Oh…me neither.
I tell you this in a public forum to help you understand that: if I can do this, take heart. If I can use baby steps to change from Haphazard Reading to Intentional Reading, I know that you can, too. It will look different in your home because you are you and your kids are different from my kids. After all, I still have found neither the Fountain of Youth nor the Holy Grail nor The Easy Button. I will, though, tell you what has been working for us for the past year and a half.
Problem: I wanted to have reading and good literature inform our days instead of being a last thought. I wanted us to read intentionally instead of trying to fit it in. Instead of waiting for it to look calm and peaceful and Pinterest-y, it had to be a part of our lives amidst the chaos.
The solution: really arose by accident.
1. First, we had to figure out the HOW.
At the end of this series (next week), I’ll share some Audible tips for those of you who might want to use Audible. For now I will just say figure out what works for you. Prior to discovering Audible, listening to audio books didn’t work fluidly in our life. Putting a CD took at least two extra steps (getting the CD out and putting the CD away), not to mention that I then had to deal with the clutter of CDs. Not to mention that I didn’t/don’t have a CD player because it’s just one extra THING. When I was growing up (home schooled) my mom would often put on books-on-tape that she had borrowed from the library. When we started this, our library was sorely lacking in quality children’s audio books. I hadn’t figured out a manner of finding legally free audiobooks and storing them in a way that was conducive to the mess that is my brain. These obstacles might not seem like much, but for me it is enough to effectively block all good intentions. Then, my friend, Steph, introduced me to Audible. I had heard about Audible. But sometimes it takes a slap in the face – or a kind friend borrowing my phone and loading on some audio books for us to listen to on the (8 hour) drive home – to help me actually try something. I’m resistant, folks. What can I say? Thus intrigued, I subscribed to Audible on my own and began.
2. Then we started small
We started out by listening to picture books. The Audible member prices on some of these titles are ridiculously cheap. In part three of this series, I include our listening list, so for now I’ll just say we listened to things like Make Way for Ducklings and The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter (Unabridged). We would still read bedtime stories, but, after prayers, the boys would fall asleep listening to the audio book. Beatrix Potter was great for that because the stories would keep playing as they would drift off to sleep.
Then, they started asking to listen at lunch time. And then while they played blocks. At that point in time, I was pregnant and one child no longer took naps and the younger napped only infrequently. Can I tell you that watching your children play quietly with blocks while they listen to a calm voice reading a story just might be the closest thing to heaven that a mom in the trenches if young kids gets to experience (other than, you know, ACTUAL nap time!)?
3. Then we got a little bigger
About a month into this venture-that-I-didn’t-know-was-a-venture, I decided to try and share The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We had cracked this book open to try and read a chapter a night, but my tendency to go all Cinderella-at-midnight-except-at-6:30pm means that I, personally, should not try to make resolutions for bedtime. Quick and clean or else it gets long and dirty. Regardless of our previous failure, I decided to try. Mostly I was just pregnant and exhausted and mentally tapped and looking to lay on the floor of the boys’ room and doze while they fell asleep. At first, my boys were totally resistant. Logan didn’t totally get what was going on, but he’s pretty go-with-the-flow, however Liam is generally resistant to any and all changes to his world and, most especially, to his bedtime routine. There is something magical about C.S. Lewis, though, and just like Lucy got through the wardrobe into a whole new world, our family entered into a whole new world of sharing literature together. (Sorry to subject you to “a whole new world” twice there. Idealistic. Cliche. Disney. My blog. You get what you get and you don’t get upset.)
4. We resolved to enjoy the process
Now, my boys are avid listeners. They are still pre-readers (I stand by my opinion to instruct but not push, and Kelly only made me more staunch!), but they LOVE books. They listen to audio books over and over and over again (just like I read books) and when they play I hear them incorporating what they hear into their play. We only download the books that all of us want to listen to, meaning that I don’t share books that I find grating. The set-in-stone listening time is bedtime (and losing this privilege is a cause for many tears), and the expectation is that they fall asleep with minimal disruption (this has evolved into a necessity because we live in a studio apartment and my husband has a work schedule that gives me little to no alone/downtime). No one seems to mind that they fall asleep during the story; they re-listen so many times that they really are able to pick up listening wherever. Liam is at the age, though, that he will not fall asleep if he is listening to a new story, so we try to listen to ones he is familiar with at nighttime.
The boys are free to ask for an audiobook at any point in the day, and they both know how to access their books on the computer. We listen in the car (and audiobooks have stood us well as we drove across the country sans a DVD player). We listen during quiet time. We listen while
we they play Legos. We listen during lunch. (One reason that Audible works so well for us is because of its extreme portability. I’ll talk about that in part three.) We fit it into the nooks and crannies of our day because it is enjoyable for everyone.
5. We are okay with ebb and flow
Sometimes we listen more than others. Sometimes the boys like listening to the familiar. Sometimes they really want to be challenged. Sometimes we listen to books that coincide with what we are learning about for school. Sometimes we listen for total fun. Sometimes I am too tired to do anything but prayers and turn on the audio book. Sometimes (and only recently) do I have the energy and vocal stamina to read chapter books (instead of just picture books). No one was more surprised than me when I realized how much I was enjoying ME reading ALOUD the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. No one. But some nights I am irritable and exhausted. But I can see how much better I am doing than I was a year ago, so, mostly, I can be kind and understanding to myself and not let it permanently set us back.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this series, wherein I share our complete reading list, some tips for using Audible, AND (reader participation alert) I’ll include some things that have worked for YOU. So share away in the comments, and I’ll give credit where credit is due.
What is your how and why for exploring and encouraging good books with your kids?