How to Help Your Child Listen When You Read Aloud

How to Help Your Child Listen When You Read Aloud

In our homeschool I have spent many, many hours reading aloud to my children. There are so many benefits to reading to your children, and it’s always something I’ve enjoyed, so it was a high priority for us.

As it turns out, an oral literature-based approach is perfect for our situation as both of my children have learning challenges: one with a visual disability similar to dyslexia, and the other with auditory processing delays. Of course, reading aloud is not all we do for school. It has taken a lot of observation and research to find the best approach to help each of my children reach her potential. However, I discovered early on that reading to them definitely helped increase their attention spans and retain information.

How to Help Your Child Listen When You Read Aloud

That seems to baffle some parents who are considering homeschooling. I’m often asked, “How do you keep the children’s attention when you read to them? How do you make sure they are listening and comprehending?”

My answer: “Let them do something with their hands while you read.”

I think sometimes parents have the notion that the children should be quietly sitting in chairs, with their attention completely focused on Mom in order to listen as she reads. That has not been my experience.

I have been reading to my children for 45 minutes to an hour a day since they were toddlers. Laura was 3 when I started reading chapter books aloud to her. I had heard that reading aloud to children helps increase their attention spans, so I read to her even when she was wiggling about the room, playing. And you know what? It worked!

I remember one day when Laura was in 2nd grade the book we were reading was Ginger Pye. It is actually a rather long book for that age group, but I had just allowed the girls to play quietly as I read each day, not realizing that Rebecca, age 4, was even listening. The day after we finished Ginger Pye I showed them the next book on the list.

“Look! We get to start a new book today!”

Rebecca was crestfallen. “But! What happened to the doggy?”

She wanted to hear more about Ginger Pye. I was excited to realize she had been following along. Fortunately for her, we happened to have the sequel, Pinky Pye… so yes, we read that next.

Over the years my children have enjoyed a wide variety of “quiet” activities while I read to them. My only rule is that they have to be perfectly quiet. Therefore they can’t work on the same activity together– otherwise they’ll try to whisper.

Just a few suggestions:

  • drawing pictures, often related to the story
  • practicing handwriting (or calligraphy when they were older)
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • coloring (with crayons, pencils, or markers)
  • historical paper dolls
  • perler beads… or even better, Simbrix beads (from Timberdoodle)
  • Legos (When we were reading about Egypt they build a pyramid, with a tiny Lego person wrapped in tissue for the mummy inside.)
  • Playmobil sets
  • needlework such as knitting, crocheting, or embroidery
  • play dough

I have been amazed at how much my listeners retain of what they hear when their hands are busy. After cultivating a listen-and-work habit I find that they now like to listen to audio books when they are working on a quiet project.

Quiet-play resources that tie in with historical read-alouds:

When reading historical novels, I like to offer my kids something to do that ties in with what we’re reading. These are some resources I’ve found that work great for that. I’m obliged to tell you these are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase helps support this blog without additional cost to you. Thank you!

What can you add to my list?

I’m sharing these ideas on Timberdoodle’s “Tips for Homeschooling Temporarily” Blog Hop.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


  • rachelgoingcreative

    That is such a cute thing that your daughter asked about the doggy. I loved the post. I think it is absolutely wonderful that you have enjoyed reading aloud to your children. You’ve really taken a lot of time to compile some great resources for homeschooling families also.

  • Sheila @ Making the Most of Every Day

    Excellent tips! We did the same thing! My boys also liked to set up Army men, domino trains, or play with pattern blocks.

  • Katie

    Ah ha! I am on here googling about getting your kids to listen to read alouds, because my six and three year olds just have such a hard time paying attention during our read aloud time and it has been really disheartening. I do let them play with legos or color or whatever while we read, but they always talk or even fight while I read. But I see you mentioned you do not let your girls play with the same thing… genius! Thank you, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that earlier. That will surely help (if I can get them to chose different activities without THAT becoming an argument lol).

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