Lay the feast (reluctant reader series tip 3)

Parents who are leery of leaving their kids alone to devour the dregs of children’s literature (how do some of these books even get published anyway?!), this tip is for you.

Reluctant reader tip #3 comes from Charlotte Mason: Lay the feast.

Letting go of your kiddo’s book choices doesn’t mean that you leave them to their own devices completely. Focus on replacing requirements with invitations.

Imagine you hear an enormous beast hollering, “You WILL join me for DINNER!” Are your taste buds tingling yet? No? Imagine instead that there are other-worldy smells wafting through the air, pulling you so deftly toward the dining room you can almost see the cartoonish aroma lines. Upon entering you are overwhelmed with the splendor of it, and as you study the details you grow even more impressed and intrigued. The napkins in neat repose, the candles aglow, the silverware stately (who knew there could be four forks at a setting?!) – these things aren’t just beautiful, they are planned. They are intended. And they work together to draw you near so you can see firsthand (and not just see, but smell! taste! listen! feel!) the glory of this meal before you. It becomes impossible to resist.

Your child’s response is not in your control. But setting the table is! As your kid is engrossed in Captain Underpants #87, you can dream and plan how to prepare the environment so she is surrounded by invitations to fascinating, disturbing, hilarious, eye-opening, sweetly serene stories as well. In Reggio Emilia thought, the environment is the third teacher. Redirecting your energy from your kid to their space may lead to some exciting changes in your reading lives.

Read aloud books that you love. Read for yourself and share your favorite tidbits occasionally (my kids love to crawl on my lap the moment I open my Bible). Lay open a huge non-fiction book on the table at night so your kid sees it first thing when he comes down for breakfast. Buy an actual newspaper. Have poetry teatime. Lay out some fun new pens and paper for her to doodle while you’re reading to her. Leave post-its everywhere (with pithy quotes, funny jokes, love notes). Go to the theatre. Borrow scads of books from the library and keep them in a basket in the hot spot of your home (not a bedroom). While you give your kid free rein give yourself the same and choose library books that pull you in. At the same time, be aware of your biases and balance soft watercolor illustrations with bold primary colors, be on the lookout for people of color as protagonists rather than sidekicks, pay attention to rich vocab as you skim. For tips on how to ensure a bit of variety, see the library highlight in my instagram stories.

And don’t be discouraged if your invitations are declined. Resist the urge to sneak “learning” into these feast invitations. If your child is particularly resistant or has recently come out of public school they may have discovered that their definition of learning are very different than teachers’ and parents’ ideas. Their experiences may make them suspicious of anything designated as fun. Take heart! While you’re making these invitations truly optional, continue giving your child lots of freedom in their book choice, and you will notice change over time.

More feast. Less beast.

I bet you have a ton of tricks up your sleeve when it comes to laying the feast. What kind of delicious reading rituals do you practice? And if you’re looking for some fun titles to share with your family, here are a few ideas:

Up next: Reluctant reader tip #4: read aloud. See how something as simple as your voice can bring your family closer around good books.

This series originally appeared on Facebook and Instagram under the hashtag #lovereluctantreaders. If you’d like to start at the beginning of the series on the blog you can click here.