Reading “With” Kids

So, my daughter is 4 1/2 and my son is 1. One thing I have not yet attempted as a parent is reading my own book while the children are awake and present. As it stands now, my reading only happens after 8 pm – and given that the baby gets up at 5 am like clockwork these days, that’s some severely limited book time.

It’s funny – my daughter, at least, will entertain herself for a good 15 or 20 minutes if I want to read the newspaper; but as soon as I have a book in my hands, she wants to hear it. (Sorry, dear, but I don’t think you’d find parenting books or Hans Urs von Balthasar terribly riveting!) And of course the baby just wants to be as present as he can, holding whatever it is that I am occupied with.

When I think back to my own childhood, it’s hard for me to envision my mother either a) outside of her sewing room, or b) without a book in her hands. Unless she was watching a baseball game, in which case she was either sewing, ironing, or cooking. I neither sew nor read while my children are conscious; ironing and cooking are dicey propositions at best. Perhaps that’s a function of their ages, and my memories are all of the post-5-year-old variety.

So, I suppose I’m not really offering food for thought in this post so much as requesting it. Those of you who do read while your children are around (which I think is so valuable!): how on earth do you do it? What are your magic tricks? I’m not looking to read War and Peace here, but I’d love for my kids to see me with book in hand – and to understand that reading-alone time is special. Any insight is welcome!

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9 thoughts on “Reading “With” Kids

  1. I think you should plop those kids down in front of a Disney movie on the TV. Then you could have some quiet reading time!

    (Kidding, people, very much kidding!)

    • My REAL suggestion is to get everyone outside. I find that if my kiddo is playing in the backyard I can sit on the deck with my own book without too many interruptions. Inside, it’s a different story!

  2. I forgot all about the magic quiet box!

    We walked by the Disney store yesterday in a mall, and after asking what that store was called, my daughter (who is 4 1/2) actually asked me, “Mommy, what’s Disney?” I felt a brief moment of parenting triumph.

    (Not that Disney is the most terrible thing in the world, of course. But my success in keeping her ignorant of Disney princesses is a point of pride with me.)

  3. I have 2 thoughts:
    1.) Do whatever you can to develop your kids’ imaginations so that they can play by themselves. (My family has regular family nights to help accomplish this goal.)
    2.) Wait four or five years. (My two kids are now able to read independently, so we can all sit and read at the same time–and I must admit, it is rather glorious!)
    Perhaps you didn’t want to read my second thought–but it really does get easier once they are a little older. 🙂

    • Thanks, Laurie! I know I’m not supposed to wish my kids would grow up faster (and really, I don’t :)) but there are days when the thought of all three of us sitting around with books sounds – well, in your words – glorious!

  4. My kids are both younger than yours, so with a pre-crawler and a three-year-old who loves to be read to but doesn’t have much interest in my books yet, it’s a little easier right now (I think).

    But it’s helped me to lower my standards and remember that, even if I don’t get the most out of that particular five minutes spent reading, that’s okay: I’m setting an example for my daughters, and showing them that that’s how I enjoy spending time. I save the heavier stuff for later, and pick up Little House on the Prairie or a collection of P.G. Wodehouse while the girls are awake.

    • Oh, hooray! Any excuse to pick up Wodehouse is one I can get behind!

      And thanks for the encouragement about lowering standards. I tend to want to pack every moment as purposefully as possible – which leads to some pretty ridiculous moments, really. (“Yes, honey, I will come wipe up the kitchen floor — please, please just let Mommy finish the fifth bolgia, okay?” Whereas in fact I have no business whatsoever cracking Dante while the kids are afoot…)

  5. Sarah I share both your trouble and your concern. My consolation has been in knowing that my daughter’s love of books and reading has nothing to do with my personal habits–it’s her’s and her’s alone! 🙂

    I know of a family who takes “reading vacations”. Everybody takes a stack to a quiet shore or cabin some place and they read all day for three or four days. Looking forward to those glorious years ahead! 🙂

  6. I was JUST asking two friends this same question a few days ago. The three of us are book lovers, and we too mulled over the “how” question. Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive at good answers. We live in a housing co-op, and so not only are there no fenced yards, but there are always lots of other moms out, so reading might seem a bit rude.

    My boys are used to seeing me carry around books (in the hopes that I can devour a few pages while we watch a train pass or perhaps peruse during their brief self-distraction periods). But reading more than a page or two is rare. So yes, I’m with you. I haven’t figured out the solution yet.

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