Make Reading to Kids a Part of Your Waiting Routine

Reading opportunities are everywhere. Have you found them?

It was Thursday afternoon. After dropping M off at her swimming lesson, I settled into a comfy chair in the lobby with about 30 minutes to kill. I had brought along a magazine to keep me company. As I sat there thumbing through my magazine, other mothers joined me, after dropping their children off at their lessons. To my right, a few feet away, sat a mom with a little girl, whose elder sister or brother was probably taking swimming lessons.

As you might expect, many of the moms pulled out their mobile phones and began texting or making calls.  This mom pulled out a couple of books from her tote. My ears perked up.

Throughout the 30 minutes or so of waiting, the mom and child enjoyed their one-on-one reading/bonding time, with no interruptions or distractions. I didn’t exactly hear what they read or said to each other(I caught a few words from Thumbelina though!), but I noticed that the little girl was attentive and curious for the entire 30 minutes. Just as they finished reading, it was time to pick up our kids from the pool.

This wasn’t the first time I had seen a mom and child read while waiting in that lobby. On a few earlier occasions, a mother and her daughter, who was just beginning to learn to read, spent the 30 minutes reading to each other alternately. The girl sounded out letters and words and put together sentences as her mother watched, listened and guided her patiently. I don’t know why, but I find it very refreshing to watch mothers and kids read together.

Watching these moms and their kids turn waiting time into reading opportunities confirmed what I’ve believed all along -
* Reading opportunities are everywhere. We just have to make the effort to spot them and use them to read. Waiting time can’t get any more productive or enjoyable than exploring books(or songs or word games) together. And it may be the only time you won’t have interruptions or other distractions affecting your reading experience.
* By turning waiting time into reading time, you’re giving your kids the skills to survive the longest lines. Ever seen how some people never crib when their flight is delayed or the line doesn’t move? They’re probably the ones who brought along a book or two. It’s not that the delay doesn’t affect them as much as it affects others. But, if there’s nothin they can do about it, then they’d rather read than rant during the wait. I am pretty sure that if those moms hadn’t brought along books to read with their kids, those 30 minutes of waiting would have turned out very differently for everyone.  By choosing to read with your child, you avoid tantrums, whiny, unreasonable demands, sibling squabbles and other unpleasant experiences that make waiting time seem even longer.

Reading While Waiting May Be Your Best Bet

I’m sure you’ll agree – not too many of us have the luxury of too much free time. So, allocating the recommended 20-30 minutes to read to kids may not always be possible.  But, whether your child is 6 months or 6 years old, you can’t stress the importance of a regular, consistent reading routine enough. It’s like taking out the trash or doing the laundry – unless you have a daily and weekly routine, things will probably get out of hand and before you know it you’ll have nothing to wear and an overflowing trashcan. And unless you set aside a time to read to kids everyday, it’s probably not going to happen.  The ‘reading at bedtime’ ritual is a good idea provided you have the time and energy at the end of a long day to curl up with your kid and a book. Which is not the case with many of us.

But, guess what? Regardless of our lifestyle, location and nature of work, there’s something we all do almost everyday? Be it at the supermarket, the airport, the doctor’s office, train station, bus stop or when we have to pick an older sibling up from karate or soccer. Everyday we all spend precious time waiting. So why not plan better for those chunks of time you spend waiting at different places?

Whether it’s 5 minutes or 50, having a book on hand makes all the difference between killing time and making the most of it with your child.

Handy Tips to Fit Reading to Kids into Your Routine
Always have a stash of books in the car. Encourage kids to thumb through them as you drive or take turns reading to each other. Rotate and restock the books periodically.
- Consider mobile storybook apps. These come in handy when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or post office.
- Carry a board book or two in your bag – especially useful when feeding or soothing a fussy baby. Familiar books and items tend to calm babies when they’re disturbed by an unfamiliar environment or faces.
- Use Audio Storybooks in the car during long drives, instead of the DVD player.

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