We already know we need to read aloud to and with our kids on a nightly basis. At least 20 minutes a night, particularly with the elementary-school set. At the end of a long day and, more often than not, a long evening of struggling through increasingly difficult homework, wrangling those 20 minutes of reading can be difficult. But reading aloud with your kids is an invaluable development tool for a number of reasons.
Our family reads every night before bed in addition to the kids’ 20 minutes of required reading for their homework. I’m proud of it, will totally brag about it (skip humble-brag and go straight to plain-face brag), and recommend it so wholeheartedly because it’s the best part of our night, our favorite part of our bedtime routine. We do it just for us, and it’s awesome.
How can you get into the habit of reading aloud with your kids and make it something your family looks forward to each night? Make it an event.
Here’s how we do it and why starting around Valentine’s Day is an excellent time to begin:
We throw Book-to-Movie parties in our own Family Book Club.
To instill a love of reading, we read aloud each night from chapter books that have been made into movies. When we finish the book, we throw a party in our living room themed around the book and watch a movie based on the book.
We’ve done it a few times now, and we thrive brilliantly within the process; everything from choosing the book as a team to the nightly bedtime ritual before we start reading, through planning the party itself and finally debating the merits of the movie.
We make the entire process an absolute event so reading out loud each night is never thought of as a chore.
Struggle with your bedtime routine, as it is? Add this extra step and watch what happens. All three of our kids share a bedroom, and they are all three out like a light usually within 30 minutes of when I start reading. Sometimes within ten minutes. No running around shouting or jumping like madmen. Even if they are still giggling when I start reading, they quiet down immediately. It’s spectacular.
On average, we make it through maybe a chapter a night. I stop two or three times each chapter and ask them, “What do you think is going to happen?” or “What would you do?!” Questions to keep them engaged and invested in the story, not to mention helping me check who is still awake or if anyone has become lost. Increased comprehension skills? Check.
Part of developing their comprehension skills is discussing the imagery of the book, sharing how we picture the story as a movie in our minds. Describing what we picture also helps us pick out favorite bits we want to include in our Book-to-Movie party. The first book we read like this was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, so when we read the part about the lick-able wallpaper, we knew we had to recreate it for the party!
What’s a good first Book-to-Movie party?
Our first party was for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and it came only a day or two after Valentine’s Day last year. We threw the entire party for under $40 by buying decorations at the dollar store and snacks on Valentine’s Day clearance.
Keep your party simple and go easy on the Pinterest research. I was tempted to really go over-the-top with our Book-to-Movie party, but I realized after this first party that it wasn’t at all necessary.
- I bought colored cellophane bowls from the dollar store to fill with candy
- I printed Wonka Bar candy wrappers and wrapped them around generic chocolate bars
- I taped candy button strips of paper from the dollar store onto the walls to recreate the lick-able wallpaper (with labels declaring “The snozzberries taste like snozzberries!” taped above them)
- I printed “Fizzy Lifting Drink” on bits of paper to tape over our sodas
One-dollar colored streamers draped around the room finished it out, and voila! We had ourselves a fancy Book-to-Movie party!
Since this was all done in our living room, I had the kids stay in a bedroom while I did the decorating so, when my kids walked into our party, we could recreate that feeling of wonder and awe from the book when the kids with the Golden Tickets first walk into the Chocolate Room.
Totally nailed it.
One of my favorite moments was when the kids walked into the living room, saw what I’d done, and my too-cool-for-everything 8-year-old grinned, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Mom, I didn’t think I’d like this, but you did a really good job,” and gave me a hug. Parents of pre-tweens, you know how hard-won that sort of approval can be.
Of course, the six- and three-year-old were basically bonkers excited. Honestly, I’m not sure I can recommend a better first Book-to-Movie experience than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
By the way, we streamed both the 1971 version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The clear favorite was the original with Gene Wilder, though Tim Burton kept far more closely to the book. Discussing the merits of each and why reading the book is so valuable is a highlight of every party.
Book-to-Movie Party Ideas: What other books can we do?
Although I warned you not to overdo it on researching party ideas on Pinterest, if you get stuck, it’s a great place to find ideas for food or decorations to match your theme.
Our second Family Book Club selection was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I could have spent hours browsing pins for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and it was on Pinterest that I found the idea for making the Wicked Witch’s broom out of peanut butter cups and pretzel sticks. We set a table with a blue and white checked cloth reminiscent of Dorothy’s dress, created a rainbow out of fresh fruit, and threw red flower petals about to simulate the poppy field.
Our third party was The Indian in the Cupboard. It’s a particularly cool book to read with boys, and we needed a break from candy-centric parties.
Our current book is Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. We are four chapters in, and the kids are at the edge of their
seats beds. The movie doesn’t look too good, but we’re gearing up to start RV’ing and I wanted to spark the kids’ interest in getting out into forests and exploring. Sure, a book about a plane crashing in a forest and a kid being left alone to survive with nothing but a hatchet may prove to have been a ridiculous choice … but we’ll see.
Do you really need the party?
Should reading aloud with the family be joy enough? Sure. Is it sort of bribing kids to read? Maybe … but I promise, rewarding finishing a book with a party gives you not only something to look forward to but reason to delve deeper into the story. It adds another level of enjoyment (and comprehension!) that reading alone doesn’t provide.
We love it. Love it, love it, love it. And I’m confident your family will, too.
Need convincing of the value of reading aloud with your kids? Check out The Read-Aloud Handbook.
Also check out 10 Middle Grade Books that My Students LOVE by Babble writer Kelly Wickham (so many book choices here for the older set!)
What other Book-to-Movie recommendations do you have?
More of Megan on Threadbare Theory:
Don’t miss the latest from Babble Voices Like Us on Facebook!