In short, whatever works for you and your family. The important point here is that you are setting aside some time to read to your kids.
While I was at my local library, I saw a poster with a quote from Mem Fox which read, “The ideal three stories a day are one favourite, one familiar, and one new, but the same book three times is also fine”.
I was a little taken aback by this quote – three books daily? Sure this is ideal, but is this realistic for the modern working family? Probably not. Good on you if you do manage this.
Being on maternity leave at the moment, I have the luxury of a bit more time up my sleeves for this sort of thing. As you can probably imagine by the theme of this blog, storytime is also a priority in our house – but, I will admit that we don’t read three books each day to the kids. Occasionally we may make this milestone, but it is certainly not the norm.
This milestone was definitely not achieved while I was at work (and only one child in tow). Realistically, we had to make a conscious effort to make sure my daughter got her single bedtime story, no matter how exhausted we were.
I feel a little torn about my sentiments toward the quote on the poster. Sure, we need to promote parents reading to their children, but there’s a fine line with adding to the already ever-present “mummy/daddy guilt”. As if there weren’t enough pressures to parenting. Now, you have Mem Fox telling you that one book at storytime is not ideal…(sigh)…
My philosophy on this is – quality over quantity. If you can manage three books a day and give each of those books the attention they need, then, by all means go for it. Personally, I can’t. We do storytime right before bed and I’m often as exhausted as the kids.
I would rather pick a book and spend the extra time on it alone. My daughter is extremely inquisitive – each page takes a good few minutes of additional questions, learning to spell/read, discussions about the illustrations, story line, etc in addition to the actual reading of the story. As she gets older, the age appropriate books get longer and more complex too.
If we were to do this with three books every night, we would have over an hour-long bedtime routine just for my daughter – which, quite frankly, doesn’t work for us. I love reading stories with my both kids (yes, even the 4 month old who doesn’t quite understand yet). I would hate to rush through this process because I felt the need/pressure to fit in three stories a night for each child.
While at the moment we do a combined storytime at my son’s bedtime, I feel this may come to an end soon due to differences in age and comprehension level. As much as I try to find even learning ground so that both parties can be involved, I’m wary of how long it can be sustained. If this does come to an end, this means two separate storytimes.
Like I said earlier, occasionally we do hit the milestone. Some days we attend storytime at the library; some times we make extra time during the day for another book or two at lunch; and I know my daughter gets stories read to her at kinder. But, as I said, I have a bit more time at the moment to try wiggle this in throughout the day.
Parents shouldn’t be beating themselves up about “ideals”. As long as there is some effort in giving your undivided attention to quality time over a book, they’ll reap the rewards. Also remember that it takes a village to raise a child and others (ie grandparents, library storytimes, daycare, kinder, etc) may also be contributing to your reading goals.
Quality over quantity.