How to Get Kids to Listen While Reading Aloud

We use a literature-based approach to homeschooling. Because of that, we read a lot of books. But the question that I hear most often is “how do I get kids to listen while reading aloud?”

More often than not I will hear parents talk about how their kids cannot sit still while reading. You are worried because you think your kids aren’t listening when they are moving around. Honestly, it is true, that if they are running around the house while you calmly read in the living room, they most likely will not hear you. That is why I want to give you some tips today!

I will give you the secret right up front. The way to get kids to listen while reading aloud is to keep them occupied. You will be hard-pressed to find kids that are able to sit still for long periods of time while you are reading.

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Get Kids to Listen While Reading Aloud

You hear about homeschoolers who all cuddle up on the couch and read books all the time. However, your child is more often than not bouncing between all the rooms while you try to read one paragraph. Why is that? Well, in order to get kids to listen while reading aloud, you need to know how they tick.

Some kids are naturally great listeners and do want to cuddle up on the couch with you. I actually have one of those kids. Always great at sitting and listening to me while I read. However, more often than not, kids will want to be occupied.

It’s OK to Move

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One of the biggest stresses for parents when reading aloud is that their kids want to move. For some reason we have been trained to believe that if your child is moving, they aren’t listening. Now, obviously, if they are moving throughout the entire house while you are sitting in the living room reading, they will miss a lot of the actual reading. However, if they are jumping on a mini-trampoline in the living room while you are reading, they are hearing every word that you say.

My middle guy is a mover, and because of that we were very happy when Santa brought a mini-trampoline to our home several years ago. This offered him a place to get his energy out while I was still able to get our school done.

Sometimes kids need movement in order to process information. This doesn’t mean they aren’t learning, but it does mean that we need to adjust our thinking when it comes to how our kids learn.

How to Get Kids to Listen While Reading Aloud – My Experience

I love books, my kids love books. However, my oldest daughter is the only one who will reliably sit on the couch with me while I read aloud. My other two have completely different learning styles, and so it doesn’t work the same way.

It was frustrating for a while. How is it possible that I could do all the same things from their infancy (namely reading long books to them), just to have them start bouncing off the walls and no longer interested in books as soon as they could move?

I didn’t know how to get my kids to listen while reading aloud, and as a book lover, it was really scary for me. Do my kids not like books? Is that even possible?!

Then something miraculous happened. I started to think about other things the kids could be doing while I was reading to them.


One of the best ways I have found to get kids to listen while reading aloud is to provide snacks. This also helps in the fact that they are unable to talk while they are eating (most of the time, this is a most-of-the-time kind of thing). I started reading to my kids during meals. They were occupied eating, and I was able to read and ask questions periodically.

This especially works for my youngest. She prefers to run away from me when I pull out books. I haven’t quite hit the magic with her and reading aloud as of yet, so for the time being, reading while eating is a good strategy for us.

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Back at it this morning! Kids playing chess while I read history. I am a big believer in giving my kids something to eat or something to do with their hands while I am reading aloud to them. It is amazing what they are able to retain and narrate back to me. What do your kids do when you read aloud to them? #homeschooling #homeschool #homeschoolmom #homeschoolmomlife #365homeschool #homeschoolfamily #homeschooldays #enchantedlearning #bravelearner #bravewriter #bravewriterlifestyle #naturallearning #seekthesimplicity #unschooling #christianunschooling #charlottemason #charlottemasoneducation #charlottemasonirl #charlottemasonliving #homeschoolhippies #wildandfreechildren #wildandfreemama #hereisourhomeschool #thisishowwehomeschool #simplefamilies #slowfamily #slowfamilyliving #ecsquad #sonlightcurriculum #sonlightstories

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Using Your Hands

The other strategy that I use to get kids to listen while reading aloud is to let them use their hands. This means using play-doh at the kitchen table, it means drawing on the floor while I read. When their hands are occupied, they are able to listen better.

You can set up activities for them to do while you are reading. Anything from drawing with pencil to more messy things like paint and play-doh. It doesn’t have to be a big project that they are working on. Instead, it can be something small that they normally do during read-aloud time.

A great option is to let them journal or draw in a specific notebook while you are reading. They may make notes and draw pictures about what you are writing. If you don’t put parameters on what they are writing/drawing about, they may surprise you.

Are they actually listening?

I know what you are thinking – but are they absorbing anything you are reading? And the answer is yes. Kids are uniquely wired that they can be listening while using their hands, or bouncing on a trampoline. In fact, I think that my kids absorb more when they are doing those things because that is their learning style.

In order to let them absorb, you will want to pull them out of their physical work while you are reading. This will happen naturally over time, and once you get used to it.

Start by asking a couple of questions as you go through the readings. It can be anything, some sort of comprehension question or thought-provoking question. If your kids are having trouble, go back over what you just read.

However, if you are reading fiction, sometimes it is OK to let the kids get lost in the story itself. They may not need to eek out every detail of the book in order to understand it. Then later in the day, bring up the storyline of the book again, see if they recall any information. “Wasn’t it funny when…? How strange that they did…?”

Tools I use

Some of the tools that I use to get my kids to listen while reading aloud are:

How to get kids to listen while reading aloud – does it Cultivate Simplicity?

Obviously the answer is yes! You need to get kids to listen while reading aloud, and letting them move, or eat, or use their hands is going to cultivate simplicity by allowing your stress level to come way down.

You want your kids to listen, you want them to absorb the material, but you don’t want to stress about it. Trying to get kids to sit still and silent while reading is a challenge. Let them move, let them use their hands, read while they are eating. Don’t let your preconceived notions of how reading aloud should go deter you from what works for your family.

The Bottom Line

Reading aloud is one of the most important things that you can do for your kids. This isn’t just for homeschoolers either. Study after study shows that literacy rates are so much higher in kids that are read to at home.

If you don’t do a lot of reading aloud at home because you don’t prefer it yourself, grab an audiobook (get 2 free audiobooks when you sign up for audible through that link) and let that be your read aloud.

The key is to do what works for your family. Letting kids move while they are listening does not mean that they are not listening. Rather, it may be their learning style. It may be that they need that movement, that activity, even that snack, in order to listen and understand what you are saying.

There is a learning curve for reading aloud. You cannot expect that you will sit down and start reading for hours at a time to your kids. Start with shorter bursts, and with books that your kids are interested in. Then move into longer periods of time and books in more subject areas.

Do you let your kids move while reading aloud?
How to get Kids to Listen while Reading Aloud - Homeschool Hacks.

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One Comment

  1. Reading to my kiddos as is my favorite part of homeschooling. I let them draw sometimes when I’m reading. Food always makes that time even more special. Thank you for this informative article.

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