4 Ways to Love Books as a Family: Family Reading Night & More

magical book

I frequently hear busy parents bemoan a lack of time, patience, or both, to read for pleasure. Others wonder how to inspire their children to develop a greater love for books.  Here we’ll explore four ways to combine family time with reading time, including family reading night, reading at the table, family book clubs, and reading outdoors.

Any of these will make family reading time a ritual to look forward to, equally pleasurable for parents and kids. Reading aloud with or to your kids is a whole topic unto itself, which we’ll explore in Reading Aloud to Children: Creating Lifelong Book Lovers.


Make a ritual of reading time

No matter how “educational” certain TV or computer programs are, few are more nourishing than reading. On the contrary, with all that visual stimulus right in your face, the imagination has little chance to take flight, let alone soar. Make books part of your kids’ lives from the start, and their lives will be richer for it.

Make reading time family time. While reading is surely a wonderful way to spend time alone, if that kind of time eludes you, establishing rituals of connectedness around books helps ensure that time devoted to books  is carved out.

Reading rituals involving family and friends can be just what’s needed to give books their due on an regular basis. These can be as simple as designating a special family reading time or forming a family book group with a distinct focus. Here are a miscellany of reading rituals that will get your family reading as a lifelong habit.

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Mother And daughter reading books on a park bench


1 – Reading in the great outdoors

When our kids were young and we wanted to take a hike — nothing strenuous, mind you — we would just call it a picnic and there was never any fuss. You can easily add books to this mix.

When the weather is nice and the outdoors beckons, pack a simple picnic and have all family members pack a book in a backpack. Or just choose one book that you might all like to read together aloud (taking turns if everyone is a reader). After a vigorous walk and a nice meal, what better way to relax than with a great story?

Or just keep it simple — grab a snack, your books, and head to the park!

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Book in snow

2 – Family reading night

In Maggie, the mother of three school-age children, has created a cozy family reading ritual. Two evenings a week, the TV, computers, and all other electronic devices are turned off, and everyone convenes in the den for an hour or two of silent reading.

An avid baker, Maggie nearly always has wholesome goodies on hand for reading nights. In winter, hot cocoa and a warming fire add a final flourish.

A family reading night doesn’t necessarily need such distinctive touches, though; it can be as basic as everyone piling into the biggest bed in the house to read silently, or aloud to one another. When older kids and teens have reading to do for school, designated family reading time can make assignments seem less of a chore.

If you’d like to make family reading night less for cocooning and more for community, see if your local library or even your child’s school would host such an event once a week. Family Reading Night by Darcy J. Hutchins and others goes into detail on the benefits of engaging in a regular event of this kind.

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Open Book

3 – Reading at the table

Most of the time, family dinners should be a time for communication and sharing, but some families designate one evening each week when bringing a book to the table is not only allowed, but encouraged. Sometimes, especially toward the end of a busy week, we just want to decompress. And reading at the table somehow seems quite preferable to having everyone staring into their phones. 

Encourage your family members to look up once in a while and share passages and great lines that call out to them!

It’s also worth considering reading aloud to your children while they snack or during weekend lunches, rather than parking them in front of the television.

Meg Cox, author of The Heart of a Family, fondly recalls her favorite mealtime ritual: Living close enough to walk home for lunch during her elementary school years, she remembers her mother reading Treasure Island or the Oz books to her and her siblings while they ate their sandwiches.

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Once Upon a Heroine - 450 Books for Girls to Love

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4 – Family book clubs

Here’s an appealing idea. This kind of book club can include both parents and older kids or teens; it can also include extended family members. It’s a fantastic way to connect with grandparents. Teens are especially prone to losing common ground once shared with grandparents; a shared interest in books can span the gap.

Some libraries are now promoting the concept of family book groups, as well as hosting them. If you’d like to keep your family book group private, your library might at least be a good resource for reading lists that appeal to a wide range of ages.

Mother-daughter book groups can be fulfilling for preteen and young teenage girls. This is a nifty way to help them get their wings as readers, while providing a constructive way for growing girls and their mothers to stay connected.

Another way to make a family reading group enticing to older kids and teens is to make it a book-and-film themed event. Find classic books that have been made into films; read the book first, then watch the movie together. A discussion on the differences as well as the merits of book-versus-movie version can be quite spirited and thought -provoking.

From classic fiction (National Velvet) to contemporary YA (The Fault in Our Stars) to timeless fantasy (A Wrinkle in Time), this kind of book group is sure to appeal to budding bibliophiles.

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10 classic children's books by women authors

10 Classic Children’s Books to Read Before you Die
has some great ideas for a family book club with younger
and middle-grade readers

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