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Real Moms Share How They Establish a Reading Routine on a Super Busy Schedule
  • Apart from work, school, after-school, social commitments, medical appointments, and getting stuff sorted in and around the house, there is a myriad of other things that can put parents in an overwhelming place. We can get caught up in the busy-ness and lose sight of things that are also important to us — like spending time to read books with kids.

    We are aware that reading is a valuable life skill that brings them access to learning, self-expression, and the joyful exploration of the world. But in reality, how do we make time to read? Speaking with parents, there was a resounding “we just don’t have the time!” response. So I sought those who actually keep to a reading routine at home. I was curious to know how they can make room for it amid working.

    Plant curiousity

    Li, a parent of a 4-year old, said, “You’d have to want reading enough, see its purpose and benefits in your life before you can bring your child to want it the same way.”

    As adults, we pass down our values, beliefs, and habits to children in our care. They mirror what and how much we value something. How much do you value reading and how do you communicate it with your child? Li has an idea. “Inching your way around reading is as simple as sparking curiosity in your child.”

    Talk about your day, what you see, ate, and felt. “It is our role to start and sustain [curiosity]. Then from here, you can read books with similar themes to your day or anything relatable. After a few weeks, your child will be asking for more stories!”

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    Read during downtimes!

    Nikki, a parent of a 3 and 11-year old shared, “It takes time to read, but this is the only half an hour in the day that I can spend with my children uninterrupted and not hurrying to do something else. It is the most precious time of the day for me.”

    During your downtime, what do you usually do together? These are moments when both of your bodies and brains are relaxed, when your guards are down, and when we feel most connected with ourselves and each other. Nikki adds, “What I found makes us both want to read more books is also making up our own stories in between reading. I would use one of her hands to tell a short story using her fingers as characters. Then she can also have a turn telling her story with my hand.”

    You don’t need to be a writer or a storyteller to this — any story is better than none.

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    Let your child do the storytelling

    Inna, a parent of a 4 and 5-year old, said, “When I’m busy, and the kids really want to read, I ask them to ‘read’ picture books to me in their own words as they can’t read yet. Or they take a nursery rhyme book, and we sing/narrate them together.”

    Being given the liberty to retell a story in his words can give your child a sense of achievement. It tells them, “You can craft your own story into your liking.” She suggests to parents who want more reading in their family life to “take it one day, one chapter at a time. Don’t force kids to listen. Always make it an enjoyable time.”

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    We want children to associate reading with pleasant feelings, so they want to keep doing it.

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    Make books accessible all the time

    We have anything that we regularly use always within our reach (i.e., phone, laptop, key, our favorite mug). How available are books to your child?

    Liwa, a parent of a 4-year old, says, suggests, “Stash a book in your car, bring one in your bag for all the lull times (waiting at the doctor’s clinic, waiting for food at the restaurant). Bring a notebook and a pencil. Usually, kids like to draw or retell a story after reading a book.”

    She adds, “We bring books everywhere. Reading one book takes only a few minutes. We let our daughter choose the books and let her browse through them before and after reading. If I am tired, I have audiobooks and videos of storytelling on my phone (and we listen/watch those).”

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    Be seen reading

    May, a parent of a 4-year old recalled, “Looking back at my childhood in the province, we weren’t read to at bedtime, but I distinctly remember growing up in a literate house. My father read the newspaper every day, subscribed to two weekly magazines, and we also had comics. Adults in our house read, so the kids also did.”

    She added, “If there’s a will, there’s a way. What worked for me (as a parent) is reading before bedtime. Kids thrive on routine, so if it becomes part of their routine early on, then it becomes easier and natural (for everyone to keep the habit of reading).”

    Time spent with your kids reading is time well spent!

    Try these simple story reading or story making gems:


    Start today with what you have and what you know in those moments when you are just present to your child.

    What stories do YOU know?

    Share and tell your child what is it about and what you liked about it. Kids get pretty hooked when we share stories from our childhood.

    Grab a few books that might be of interest to your child.

    Not sure? Ask them. As long as they like it, you can never go wrong in reading.

    No books lying around?

    Come up with a story together. Use this story spine to help you get started: 

    Once upon a time, there was a…

    Every day...

    But one day…



    After that…


    But really, take your child’s lead in where the story goes! 

    Will you consider taking on these tips to do at home with your children?

    Born to a family of teachers, Anna Manuel is a reading advocate and a children’s book author with a degree in Language Education, with a minor in Special Education, and a Master's in Reading Education. She is the master storyteller behind Melbourne-based Heads and Tales, which offers storytelling sessions, family literacy workshops, performances, and more. Her work and latest book, Leo’s Pet Bug, focuses on empathy, which she believes keeps us connected and thriving.

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