The answer to this question is surprisingly simple: anytime. You can read aloud to children whenever your family has a window of time to slip in some precious moments of peace and quiet. In our family that’s usually bedtime, when younger siblings are put to sleep and we can enjoy a quiet chance to read an entire chapter of a novel. There’s something powerful about having a story be the last thing your child is thinking about before they close their eyes for the night.
A popular new tradition among homeschool families can be adopted by any parent, homeschool or not. Poetry Tea Time was created by Julie Bogart of Brave Writer. Bogart argues that families should establish a regularly scheduled time—in our family it’s weekly, on Wednesdays—when kids and parents can gather and enjoy a cup of tea (or hot coco in the winter), a treat, and some poetry. I never grew up with regular access to poetry, and doing Poetry Tea Time with my kids helped me understand that to appreciate and even learn to love poetry, we have to actually read it regularly.
The Homeschool Mastery Academy has published an Ultimate Guide to Poetry Tea Time that’s worth considering. There are so many options for how to incorporate poetry into your weekly routine.
Some themes you may want to try:
- A Very Silly Teatime. Enjoy the poetry of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky. Make Funfetti cookies, let the kids dress in silly clothes. Create your own silly poems. This is a great way to kick off your first poetry teatime.
- Christmas Teatime. Christmas cookies and a reading of The Night Before Christmas are, of course, the “must haves”. Be sure to have some Christmas music going on in the background. Serve peppermint tea with candy canes, hot chocolate with marshmallows, or apple cider.
- Nature Teatime. Time to take your poetry teatime outdoors! Get a picnic blanket and pack a basket with treats. After enjoying poetry all about nature, take a nature walk.
- Animal Teatime. There are so many great poems about animals. Go ahead and get some animal crackers for this one to enjoy as you read the poems. Let your kids draw pictures of the animals in the poems. And if you live near a zoo, follow up your teatime with a trip to see the animals (bonus if you read a poem about the animal you are looking at!).
Another classic for kids is A Children’s Garden of Verses, a favorite among homeschooling families, as well.
As part of our homeschool, we also spend several months working our way through different poets, from Emily Dickenson (after we spent several months with Emily, my son wanted to name a fish ‘Emily Dickenson’) to Robert Frost.
The “when” question of reading out loud applies not just to the time of day, but the time of the year. One of our favorite things to do is to embrace the seasons with our book and poetry selections. In our family, we love this poetry book, called Sing a Song of the Seasons, with a different poem for every day of the year.
Over the winter last year, we spent months reading the story of the Endurance, the story of the incredible journey across Antarctica made by Ernest Shackleton. Reading those bone chilling chapters certainly made us appreciate the warmth of our home, even in the dead of winter. As fate would have it, just as we were wrapping up Alfred Lansing’s book on the trip, explorers discovered the wreckage of the ship.
There’s no right time of the day to read out loud, it’s truly whatever works for your family. Make it work with a set time and keep in mind the “when” of the changing seasons to bring magic to your days and evenings.
This is Part 3 of a 5-part series on reading aloud to children, by Heroes of Liberty Editor Bethany Mandel. If you missed them, you can catch up on Part 1 and Part 2. Don’t forget to check back soon for the next part of this series — ‘The Why.’
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