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No Time to Read Before Bed? Have Storytime Lunch Instead!

A mother and child read together
Reading together doesn't have to happen exclusively at bedtime. Any time of day is good! | FG Trade/Getty Images
Reading a story together during lunchtime is just one way to take a few minutes throughout the day to get kids reading, but there are many other ways to make reading even more fun at any time. Here are just a few of them.
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Reading at bedtime doesn't always work out. Sometimes we are working late, juggling dinner and virtual homework, or our little ones are just too tired. But reading is such a valuable social-emotional tool for forming bonds between caregivers and parents. As PBS Parenting Minutes tell us, children who are read to when young are more likely to do well in school.

Naturally, when we skip the evening books, the parenting guilt sets in.

Enter storytime lunch.

One afternoon, to get my kids to eat, I whipped out some books and started reading at the lunch table. Something clicked and a sense of relief came. The parenting pressure of reading books for fifteen minutes at bedtime was off.

My family calls it “storytime lunch,” and it has become a favorite for my two preschoolers and me. We sit down at the table with a pile of books and our lunch. I read the stories while my daughters eat. Even my typically picky eater is too distracted to push back on any of the food. A win-win!

Close up of a counting book and purple grapes
A little math goes very well with grapes. | Stephanie Murray

Storytime lunch is just one way to take a few minutes throughout the day to sit and read together, but there are many other ways to make reading even more fun at any time. Here are just a few of them.

Virtual library storytimes. Listen, move, play and sing along with librarians from all over the city! The Los Angeles Public Library offers daily virtual storytimes streamed live through the library’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

Connect virtually with faraway friends and family. Storytime lunch is a fun way to engage with our family and friends as we stay at home. Set up a scheduled video call with a family member during lunch time. As they share a snack or lunch virtually, have the family member read a book to your little one. Then, encourage your little one to read a book back on the video call.

Host your own pretend storytime show. Set up your cell phone video camera and have your child take the lead of a pretend television reading show. They can pretend to be the teacher or librarian as they read to their imaginary audience. Keep the video as a cute keepsake to watch again and again.

Add a little math! As a bonus, add some early learning math skills to your family storytime lunch. Books are a great tool for number and shape recognition and counting skills. Some of my family’s favorite math-related storytime lunch books are:

Written by Melanie Gerth and illustrated by Laura Huliska-BeithTurn this counting book into a song. The repetition of the storyline will have your kids singing along as you count down from 10 to one. Pause to count the number of toy ladybugs on each page.

Book cover of “Ten Little Ladybugs” written by Melanie Gerth and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
Book cover of “Ten Little Ladybugs” written by Melanie Gerth and illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith.

By Norman BridwellWith big large numbers on the pages, children can count from one to 10 with their favorite big red dog, Clifford, as he celebrates a birthday party.

Book cover of “Count on Clifford” by Norman Bridwell
Book cover of “Count on Clifford” by Norman Bridwell.

Written by Anna Milbourne and illustrated by Serena RigliettiPipkin sets off to find out how big a million is. On his journey, he meets a new friend and counts to bigger and bigger numbers: 10,100 and 1,000 and even 1,000,000.

Book cover of “How Big is a Million?”written by Anna Milbourne and illustrated by Serena Riglietti. It is illustrated with a penguin on a snowy night.

By Caroline Jayne ChurchHead, shoulders and ten tiny toes. As you read, count the number of toes on the baby’s feet together.

Book Cover of “Ten Tiny Toes” by Caroline Jayne Church. It is illustrated with a small child holding a teddy bear on his legs.
Book Cover of “Ten Tiny Toes” by Caroline Jayne Church.

And remember:

  • Read in any language. Reading a story together is a bonding experience and can be done in any home language.
  • You can choose books with only pictures. While young children can not read yet, they can still make up stories and follow the illustrations. Flip through the pages together and make up a story.

The days are long and the years are short. And somewhere in between —whether bedtime or lunchtime — we can find small moments to flip through the pages of a book with our children.

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