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Parents as Reading Role Models: How to Find the Time

One of the greatest things parents can do to influence their children as they grow up is to model the very behaviors and values they hope to instill in their children. Reading is one of the best examples of this: every study shows that children who see their parents reading and writing are more likely to engage in those activities as well. So we’re kicking off a series of posts about how parents can be the best reading rode models for their children.

Part 1: How Parents Can Find the Time to Read

My friends Dave and Karen have always inspired me with their dedication to fitness. Despite three children, three jobs, volunteer commitments, and time for family and friends, they always seem to be training for a race. I love to hear about how they carve out the needed time to meet their fitness goals. After listening to them discuss their schedules, I applied their techniques to my own life as a reader, mother, wife, and teacher.  

Based on those experiments, here are some ways to incorporate more reading time into your daily schedule:

The Early Riser

Dave sets his alarm an extra hour before he needs to get ready for work in order to fit in his exercise. By completing it this early, he loses zero time with his family and starts his day feeling energized. Having mimicked this approach to my own reading life, setting my alarm an extra 30 minutes early, I agree!

Pros: Getting up early guarantees reading will happen in your day. I drank my coffee while it was still hot (a feat most teachers and parents rarely enjoy) and felt no guilt as the rest of my family snoozed away. When I woke up my own kids, I found myself chatting with them about what I had read.

Cons: It was often hard to break away from the book when it was time to get ready. Unlike evening reading, you can’t just stay up a few extra minutes to finish a captivating chapter.

Reading at Night

Karen swims at the local pool 2-3 evenings a week. This involves coordinating with Dave to be sure someone is with the kids. A few evenings a week, I told my family that after dinner, I was “off duty.” I retreated to our bedroom, book in hand, and stated that I shouldn’t be interrupted unless someone was bleeding or barfing.

Pros: It gave me something to look forward to throughout the day!

Cons: Even if you plan for it, things still come up. There might be too many loose ends from your day to make it feel like you can truly relax and focus. Other evenings, there really was bleeding and barfing to deal with.

Reading with a Buddy

Dave and Karen often include their children in their exercise routine on the weekends. They put the kids in the bike cart, go for long walks, or swim together. I found myself using the buddy system reading method as a way to sneak in some of my own reading. Instead of reading to my children, I read my own book while they read their books independently.

Pros: Bedtime reading is already a part of our nightly routine. I like that my children see me experience the same reading habits they do, especially when the timer goes off and I don’t want to stop reading until I finish the end of the chapter!  It made reading feel social, like a hobby we can enjoy together.

Cons: This is tricky when children prefer (or rely on) you to read to them, not independently.

Reading on Vacation

Dave and Karen take a yearly vacation to Lake Michigan and don’t leave home without Dave’s bike and Karen’s swim cap. Part of going on a trip, whether it’s an overnight to Grandma’s or for a week away, means planning and packing reading material.

Pros: Sometimes travel involves downtime, both expected and unexpected. Having a book ready not only passes the time more quickly, but can calm nervous travelers, young and old.

Cons: Books take up valuable space. Limit the material or bring an e-reader along for more options.

Reading Outside the Home

In order to make time for their exercise in the context of their lives, a run into the grocery store often comes after a workout, complete with wet hair from the pool. But it doesn’t stop them from getting in their workout and still fulfilling their family duties. I’ve started bringing a book to every extracurricular event my children participate in so that I can get in some reading minutes while playing chauffeur to their practices and lessons.

Pros: Not only do your kids see you reading, but so do other parents and siblings. “Reading in the Wild,” or outside the confines of our home (a term introduced in the book Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller), normalizes the practice and reduces the idea that downtime equals time to pull out the phone.

Cons: It is harder to concentrate at these external events. Consider a lighter read, like short stories or magazine articles.

I challenge you to incorporate one or more of these opportunities for reading into your day. Just like after a workout, no matter the length or intensity, you’ll be glad you did it!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links which supports this website.

Want to learn more about “Reading in the Wild?” Check out Donalyn Miller’s book about it:

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