Why I DON’T read to my kids every night (and the case for nonfiction)

Reading Buddies

One of the things that makes me proudest as a mom is seeing my kids sitting and reading books. Of course, they’re not really reading the words yet, but they’re looking at books, pointing out stuff they see, asking questions about what we’re reading, and “reading” to each other and the dogs (aka, making up their own story). How did I get here?

When I first became a mom, I read to Sweet Pea each night. Or tried to. There’s a plethora of research that supports that reading to children, even from birth, is beneficial to them, and if we were going to start a bedtime routine, I wanted to start it right away. I had envisioned nice, peaceful evenings reading books before bedtime, as that’s what we did when I was a kid. But, I quickly learned that it didn’t really flow or fit in with our bedtime routine. So, I started reading in the mornings, and, as she got older, anytime Sweet Pea showed interest or asked me to read a book.

Books Everywhere!
We have books in the living room, play room, each kid’s room, our bedroom/bathroom (one of the ways I keep them occupied while I shower and get ready for the day), and the upstairs play area. Oh, and usually some in the car too. Buddy Boy has started picking up books and looking at them a lot more. He brings us books and asks us to read them, which I absolutely love. Shortly after having Buddy Boy, I dropped the kids off with my mom and went to a doctor’s appointment. I came back an hour later and asked what they did. My mom told me they read 26 books. Cover to cover. And that was it. Because that’s what Sweet Pea wanted to do. Clearly, we’ve instilled a love of reading into these kids.

The case for nonfiction
But, what do we read? A lot of nonfiction (informational text), actually. When I first started teaching, I quickly realized that my students were not interested in the cutesy stories in the reading anthology. And, they had major state tests in science and social studies to take, so I decided to teach reading using the science book. Yay! THAT got their attention. It was amazing how many of the reading standards I could teach using their science book (and simultaneously allow them to learn some science), and I could get almost all of them if I used the social studies (history) book too. Plus, my kids were interested, so I wasn’t fighting that battle too! Score!

According to a national study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average child spends less than 4 minutes a day reading nonfiction (the real, factual stuff, not made up stuff), but spends about 4 hours and 29 minutes watching TV. When they are reading outside of school, kids are reading fiction.

But, most of our bosses aren’t going to tell us to go read a novel, play, poem, or some other fictional writing. We’re told to read instructional manuals, briefings, publications, etc. If our goal is for our children to go to college someday (in the next 15ish years), then we should prepare them for all the nonfiction (fact-based) reading they’ll be doing. This is also the case with their K-12 education, as the Common Core standards place a lot more of an emphasis on nonfiction reading than the previous standards.

Why read?

  •  Learn valuable reading skills
  • Increased vocabulary (the biggest indicator of a child’s success is the number of words he/she knows). Informational texts (nonfiction) are more vocabulary rich than fiction texts.
  • Find reading more enjoyable
  • Reading informational text helps develop background knowledge. This can account for as much as 33% of student achievement!
  • You can teach yourself anything if you can read.

How to Choose Books

  • Choose based on what your child is interested in.
  • If they don’t have any big interests yet, get a variety.
  • Notice what toys they play with or what draws their attention when you’re out. Select books around those interests.
  • Holidays, seasons, or upcoming trips or vacations, are also good, relevant topics to read about.

Note: going to the library is the cheapest way to explore new books. Take a trip once a month or so, which will also help you with rotating your books.

So, no. I don’t read to my children each night. Some nights, yes. But every night, no. But, we read every day. Some days more than others. I don’t set a timer or record how long we read. We just read. To keep it interesting for us (especially the adults in the house), I rotate the books out approximately once a month. The playroom has board books, while the living room has books according to our monthly theme, season, or current interests. The other reading baskets have a random assortment of books the kids flip through when they’re in those rooms. While it might be a good idea to rotate those out too, I don’t (who has time for ALL that?!). I just focus on the books we use the most, which are the ones in the living room.

Please, incorporate reading into your day. Every. Single. Day. But, do what works for you and your family. Put books where they’re most convenient. Read when it’s most convenient. Make it enjoyable and make it work for you. And, do try to read informational text. It’s really the most beneficial to your child (but any reading is better than no reading). 🙂

Source: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec12/vol70/num04/Nonfiction-Reading-Promotes-Student-Success.aspx

Here are over 70 nonfiction ideas to get you started or help you branch out for your next trip to the library, book store, or where ever you get your books.


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