How We Make More Reading Time (and Enjoy Quieter Meals) With Our Kids

posted by Andrea | 07/15/2019

Dave has always been a big reader, and it seems our children have picked up on his love for books — especially Nora, now that she can read so well on her own! 

They love looking at books, they love listening to us read to them, and they love going to the library every week to choose their own books (the boys always ask “can we buy this book?” and then get super excited when I say ‘sure, that’s fine’!)

We usually read for short pockets of time throughout the day — more often in the winter when we’re stuck inside — and we ALWAYS read for about 20 minutes before bed every night.

Our “routine” has been that Dave reads to the boys and I read with Nora. However, that is starting to change a bit as Nora sometimes likes to read on her own and Clara is now old enough to read with me. 

How We “Stumbled Upon” A Way to Make More Reading Time

Last winter, I started looking for ways to fit more reading time in with the kids — mainly because we were getting SO many books from the library each week that it was sometimes tricky to find time to read them all, especially since the older kids often like longer chapter books. 

Nora mentioned one of her favorite things about school was when her teacher read to them during their lunch time… which got me thinking I could do the same thing at home.

I decided I would start reading to the boys (and Clara) during/after lunch each day. They are such slow eaters, so I could easily make everyone’s lunch, eat my lunch, and then read for 10-15 minutes while they finished lunch. 

This worked PERFECTLY for our chapter books with fewer pictures as the boys didn’t need to sit right next to me to “see” the pages. It was also convenient as they were already sitting down and fairly quiet/still while they ate — to my surprise, they were even quieter and more focused on eating when I read! 

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Over the summer (with Dave home all day), we have started reading to the kids after EVERY meal — even when we eat outside.

We’re working our way through The National Parks Mystery Series by Mary Morgan (a local author). The books are so well suited for our kids’ ages — especially Nora and Simon — and the kids all look forward to reading together after each meal. Even Clara sits fairly quietly to listen. 

We also have 3 different devotional books we read at least once a day — sometimes one at each meal. 

Our Daily Bread for Kids (the main one we’re reading this year)

The Jesus Storybook Bible 

Jesus Calling Bible Storybook 

Since Dave and I almost always finish eating before the kids, he usually reads one devotional and then a few chapters of our mystery book while I start cleaning up the kitchen and the kids finish eating. Then we eat dessert together. 

We keep the books in the little wooden caddy on our table so they are easily accessible (and fairly safe from spills!) 

Of course, I realize most families are not able to read together after every meal — we won’t be able to do this once everyone starts school again in the Fall; however I DO hope we are able to continue reading after dinner each night for at least a couple more years (assuming we stick with very few extra curricular activities!) 

I’m SO thrilled with our post-meal reading times!

It’s a fun activity we can all do together — even with the different comprehension levels of the kids. 

It has made meal times more enjoyable due to less noise and movement at the table. 

It has been exciting for the kids to anticipate this reading time so they “know what’s happening next” in the books.

It’s just a great way to fit in significantly more reading every day (we read for roughly 10-15 minutes after each meal — which adds up day after day!) 

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We’re almost finished with the last National Parks Mystery book, so we’ll be looking for a new series of chapter books to read in another week or so. 

I’d love some good suggestions from you!

Preferably books that are “gender neutral” with shorter chapters, few pictures, and suitable for ages 4-8.

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Happy Reading! 

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Filed under: FamilyParentingChildren

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46 comments

  1. Christina

    07/23/2019

    Just came across this list from All About Reading (the publisher we use for phonics for homeschooling). There’s some great recommendations on it. Thought you might be interested since you were looking for more chapter books. You do have to sign up for their email list, though: https://info.allaboutlearningpress.com/chapter-book-library-lists

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much Christina! This is fantastic!!

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  2. Carrie

    07/21/2019

    Andrea,
    The Cam Jansen books are really great. My daughter loved them. They are mystery, detective type books, with cute “mysteries” to solve. Very cute and there are tons of them.

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  3. Carrie

    07/21/2019

    Oh, what a fabulous idea!! It’s been about 2-3 since my 13 year old (today) daughter and I have sat down together and enjoyed reading a good book. I miss it so much. I think you’re idea of a family book club is brilliant! I will be implementing this immediately, so we can enjoy a couple of books before summer is over.
    So glad you shared, thank you!

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    Carrie Reply:

    Ooops, this is supposed to be a reply to Nicky’s comment from July 16th in regards to her family book club idea.

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  4. Birthe

    07/20/2019

    When I was an exchange student I suggest “Pippi Longstocking” by Astrid Lindgren to my host family- they sure enjoyed it! Greetings from Germany!

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  5. Kim

    07/19/2019

    I have fond memories of reading chapter books (such as the Little House on the Prairie series) to our girls as they ate breakfast before school each day. They are both avid readers as adults. Thanks, Andrea, for prompting such a fun memory.

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    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome — love the little house books!!

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  6. Darla

    07/18/2019

    Hi, my kids are 20 & 15 and still enjoy “Adventures In Odyssey” audio stories. Check your library for CDs. It’s been a terrific investment over the years. My oldest started listening around age 3 — we listen as a family, too. Well done and excellent life lessons from a biblical perspective. There are also some related book series (“Imagination Station” chapter books) that Norah could read on her own or you could read as a family. We pay for a yearly online subscription (around $100/yr — they continue to make new stories; Focus on the Family).

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  7. Liz

    07/17/2019

    My 4 and 8 year olds LOVE all of the Beverly Cleary books especially the Ramona Series. The Henry Huggins series is good too, but it is a little more boyish than the Ramona series.

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  8. Bobbie

    07/17/2019

    Both of my kids (6 year old boy, 4 year old girl) absolutely love listening to Magic Treehouse. They like it on audio, if we read it to them, even if my son reads it to my daughter. I think there are about 30 books in the series and then they followed up with another collection called Merlin’s Missions. Very cute stories!

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    Brooke Reply:

    I’ll second this one!

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  9. Wendy

    07/16/2019

    The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald is great. I read them when I was young and then introduced them to all my kids’ (6 of them) elementary school teachers. They all fell in love with them and ended up reading them to their classes. Also Mandy, by Julie Edwards, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is such a lovely thing you’re doing. It will stick with your children for the rest of their lives.

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  10. Tara

    07/16/2019

    These are all great suggestions. We’ve read many of them. One more suggestion would be the In Grandma’s Attic series. Both my son and daughter beg for me to read and re-read these funny stories over and over. I loved them as a child too. Really fun reading for all ages. Also, if one of you enjoys doing voices reading the classic Whinnie the Pooh books is delightful.

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  11. Bonnie'sMama

    07/16/2019

    The Boxcar Children series would be a good level for your children. But only the first nineteen were written by Gertrude Chandler Warner. After that, they’re “created by” her, written by other authors who do a poor job. Also in the later books the characters jump back in time to the age they were in the first book, which doesn’t make sense.

    The Borrowers series is about a tiny family who lives under the floor of an old house and borrow things from the people upstairs. My children loved it.

    In a year or two, the Melendy Family stories by Elizabeth Enright would be so good. It starts with The Saturdays and has another three or four books in it. By the same author, Thimble Summer is one we just enjoyed.

    I love reading, but my husband is the one who has done the nightly read-alouds for years now. We also enjoy audio books during meals, on trips, while snapping beans and shucking corn, pretty much all day long.

    The Hobbit is a little old for your younger ones, but when you get to it, get the audio version read by Rob Inglis. It’s wonderful!!

    The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and The Railway Children by E. Nesbit are two more delightful books. The Railway Children was made into a beautiful British movie, as well.

    The world is filled with lovely books, and it is such fun to finally have children of my own I can share them with!

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  12. Diana

    07/16/2019

    Wow, good for you to read after all the meals! I love that you start cleaning up the kitchen while Dave reads. We might be able to try this–cleaning up dishes is the hardest housekeeping task to fit into my day!

    Last year I started playing an audio book for the kids during most lunchtimes–since we homeschool, I’m talked-out by lunch and it was a perfect way to work through a book and give me a break. I haven’t felt the need during the summer, but we’ll pick it back up in fall. (We do read other times!)

    We’ve really enjoyed the Henry Huggins books (definitely enjoyed by girls too) and some of the Ramona books (a few of these aren’t quite up my son’s alley). They chapters aren’t super short, but they do often have good places to stop in the middle of a chapter if you need to. I’d like to do The Mouse and the Motorcycle Books next.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, the fact that I can clean up the kitchen while the kids SIT QUIETLY is essentially a miracle! 🙂

    we need to utilize books on tape more often, I always forget about those!

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  13. Laura D.

    07/16/2019

    I, too, highly recommend The Boxcar Children. I can still recite the first few lines from the first book of the series because I read it so often over 50 years ago! Then my son enjoyed the books, too.

    Also, one of my best memories from grammar school is from third grade, when our young teacher, Mrs. Smith, would read us a chapter of Charlotte’s Web every day after lunch.

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  14. Jaime

    07/16/2019

    I highly recommend checking out Sarah Mackenzie’s Read Aloud Revival podcast or her book, The Read Aloud Family. Her web site also has book lists. They are full of excellent book recommendations. While not limited to Christian authors, she does write from the perspective of a Christian parent. Honey for a Child’s Heart is another excellent resource for book titles.

    We also loved the Magic Tree House, Little House, A-Z Mysteries and the Usborne non-fiction beginning readers, while not chapter books, have been excellent sources for building background knowledge.

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  15. Natalia

    07/16/2019

    What a great idea! Thank you!

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  16. Nicky

    07/16/2019

    My kids are mostly adult / teens so very different situation. However we do try to do family bookclub once or twice a year where we all read the same book and discuss. The favourite so far was Stig of the Dump – a childhood classic! But the best moment was when we all read Why didn’t they ask Evans by Agatha Christie – my youngest, and the slowest reader, finally declared ‘I know who Evan’s is’ half way through the long train journey home from holiday and the stranger next to him declared, ‘so do I’, and we could all discuss the book together and make a new friend! As they grow older and move away finding ways to facilitate conversation and common interests is challenging but this is one that works for us and was fostered from reading together when they were little.

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  17. Lynn

    07/15/2019

    My son enjoyed the Magic Tree House & Little House series as well! Also the Ralph Mouse books, the old Bobbsey Twins books, and the Treasure Chest series by Ann Hood (these are mysteries and each book centers around Felix & Maisie, sibling twins, and a historical figure, such as Alexander Hamilton, Clara Barton, Amelia Earnhardt, etc). If you can find some of the Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime stories, those are great compilations of short stories with a lesson, morals, etc.

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    Patti Reply:

    I have a set of the Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories! We read them before my bedtime when I was little and I’m old now! LOL! I was so surprised to see them mentioned. What great memories! <3

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  18. Karen

    07/15/2019

    What a great idea! I will implement this with my grandchildren! Thank you.

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  19. Shelly

    07/15/2019

    Little House books were loved by everyone in our family (and I’m the only female!) My three boys all loved it! They also loved the Little Britches (series) books by Ralph Moody.

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  20. Natalie

    07/15/2019

    My kids LOVE “The Magic Tree House series” by Mary Pope Osborne, or as they call them, “The Jack and Annie Books”! The main characters are a brother and sister who are 8 and 9 years old who go on historical fiction adventures. They are great for young readers with high reading levels to read by themselves or for the younger siblings to listen along while the older sibling or parent reads them out loud.

    We are also reading The Chronicles of Narnia. My 7 and almost 5 year old are soaking them in! I don’t know how good they’d be for the younger kids though.

    Thanks for the suggestion of the mystery series. We’ve been looking for something to read next.

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    Sharyl Simeone Reply:

    We read these also with all four of our children! They absolutely remember this as one of their best memories and they were surprised as the stories are historical in nature. Check them out! Sharyl

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  21. JJ

    07/15/2019

    We do this, too–love it!!! My husband’s grandparents always did a Bible devotional after the meal–no matter who ate with them. I always thought that was so refreshing! And because of your one post about the Our Daily Bread Kid’s Devotional, we got that and have been enjoying it so much!!! Thank you!!!

    When I taught in the classroom, my students LOVED Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. I also love Adventures in Odyssey. And Paddington the chapter book!

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  22. Barb

    07/15/2019

    Little House on the Prairie series is a must. All (6) the ages in your home will like it, and like it enough to read again when Clara is older. Begin with “Little House in the Big Woods.”

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  23. yettie

    07/15/2019

    My 8 year old twins really enjoyed the Dogman series of books. They got the first book on their 6th birthday and have pounced on each subsequent book.

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  24. Steph Mackey

    07/15/2019

    I was also going to add Magic Tree House. My boys and I have read the entire series together. Your older kids especially would be great ages to start.

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  25. Kate

    07/15/2019

    Thank you for your recommendation awhile back on the “Who Was” books. We’ve read several aloud this summer and the kids and I have both enjoyed them!

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  26. Donna

    07/15/2019

    Sorry, me again….the Magic Tree House is 6-10…. time traveling through history duo of Jack and Annie. And don’t forget that The Hobbit is a children’s book…maybe you are a year off for your younger kids…but we started reading it to our kid when he was in preschool. We found a larger sized book with beautiful pictures…he asked for us to read that book over and over. JRR Tolkien wrote it for his kids. Reread it yourselves, of course, only you know what level of adventure that your kids are ready for.

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  27. Donna

    07/15/2019

    Do consider books with either a strong male or strong female…mixed in with the more gender neutral…help your kids celebrate all genders. There’s no reason your boys can’t get excited about a female protagonist, or your girls route for a male. Unless you mean…fewer trucks and makeup type books….those are boring anyway! Ha ha.

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  28. Evie

    07/15/2019

    This is just the best idea! I wish I had thought of it back (way back) when my kids were growing up!

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  29. Janene

    07/15/2019

    Box Car Children are some of our favorites.

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  30. Mary in Maryland

    07/15/2019

    Jim Trelease is the author’s name.

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  31. Mary in Maryland

    07/15/2019

    “The Read Aloud Handbook” by James Tremain has suggestions for many different ages.

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  32. Ashley

    07/15/2019

    Reading with food in front of the kids is fantastic! I try to read to my kids while they’re eating snack. I love that Dave reads to the kids, might have to have hubby start doing more reading aloud. It is amazing how giving them something to do (eat) helps so much with how they’re willing to listen 🙂

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  33. Chris

    07/15/2019

    This is a great idea! I don’t know if I ever heard of the National Park Mystery Series. When I clicked on it, it brought up Pictured Rocks. I live in the South and our favorite family vacation when my son was still young enough to go along, was to Michigan. We stayed at a little place in the UP and went on the Pictured Rocks cruise. It was beautiful.

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  34. Julie

    07/15/2019

    I would either read books to the kids or listen to them on disc. I read through the Little House on the Prairie once and we listened to it on disc once. When the kids were a bit older than yours we listened to the Hardy Boys and alot of books by Gary Paulsen as well as Richard Peck. My Side of the Mountain trilogy by Jean Craighead George is also good listen or read. We stll listen and re listen to some of the stories on longer trips.

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  35. Heidi

    07/15/2019

    Magic Tree House is a favorite on our house!

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  36. Shelley

    07/15/2019

    This is such a great idea!

    I am in the UK so I’m not sure how easy it would be for you to get hold of these books, but I loved the author Enid Blyton when I was younger. She has lots of books, and lots of them are written in series too, so there are a few books all about the same characters.

    The Magic Faraway Tree was my favourite, about children who find a tree that has a magical land at the top.

    The Famous 5 series was great too, about a group of children who solve mysteries, which sounds a bit like the one you’ve been reading already.

    Can’t wait to hear what you read next!

    [Reply]

    Calliope Reply:

    I grew up reading Enid Blyton! All her series! Love them!

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  37. Abby D

    07/15/2019

    I’d definitely recommend The Boxcar Children series and The Magic Treehouse series for this age. Both are delightful!

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  38. Jules

    07/15/2019

    Are you familiar with the Wayside School books? They’re silly and fun! Each chapter is fairly short and focuses on a different student.

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