When my children were younger, I struggled to keep everyone at the table at the same time. Living books were important to me, but my rambunctious bunch wouldn’t quiet down. I was okay with them playing with Legos or squishing clay while I read, but quietly? That seldom happened. At that time, only one child could read on her own. While I filled the house with great books, I wanted a way that we could read them together. As I pondered my problem, I observed one time in the day when everyone stopped talking and running around. Lunchtime.
Tea time read aloud is born
Reading great literature while they ate began with lunch. It took a little planning so that I would be ready when they all gathered at the table. I started reading for 15 minutes, just long enough for them to finish eating. After a few days, they stopped getting up after lunch and begged me to keep reading. I would’ve kept this routine, but I kept missing my own lunch. I learned that a homeschool acquaintance of mine had a routine of cookies and tea at 3pm. I thought, “Why not make it read aloud tea-time?”
While it’s obvious that that I needed cookies, tea, and a good book, it wasn’t quite that simple. If I didn’t have everything ready—say, I put the cookies out, but the tea wasn’t done steeping—they wouldn’t stick around. I carefully timed everything and chose the book in advance. I couldn’t start reading until they had the cookies. I had to make the cookies ahead of time (my kids have allergies that make it cost-prohibitive to buy them all the time). This meant that I had to account for the baking time even while we were doing lessons, eating lunch, caring for a toddler, etcetera.
Sometimes it was hard to get in everything I wanted to do with them. Every day was a new adventure with children with short attention spans and wiggly legs. There were days when I felt like I accomplished nothing. But, there was always read aloud time. If nothing else, I knew that my kids were being fed good stories that nourished their hearts and souls. Not only that, we made memories that are with them still. They didn’t always remember the “lesson time” but they sure remembered the books we read together over cookies. Even as they got to be teenagers, they still enjoyed tea time read aloud.
Our favorite read aloud ideas
I almost always chose classics and unabridged, original versions. Reading good books that tell important truths within an entertaining story line is important to me. You can read some of my further thoughts on that HERE. They heard Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Wind in the Willows, Jungle Book, Velveteen Rabbit, and many, many more. They were not the Disney versions. In fact, after we read the originals, they got angry that the stories were changed for the movies. They actively compare books to movies now and almost always find the book to be better.
Maybe you already have a read aloud time with your children. Try adding tea and cookies and see what happens. A new tradition may be the vehicle for joyful remembering.