How to Orchestrate a Reading Marathon During Quarantine

Happy day 33,425 of quarantine. I’m chief enthusiasm officer here at the Asby house, and in that spirit, I’ve been telling my kids that they will someday get to tell stories (stories!) about when they were young and the pandemic hit and the world shut down.

Then I wondered… What will they say?

Hopefully not something – said with a sigh – about how our family motto should be “Asbys Like Clean Houses.” (True story.)

What if your kids could look back on quarantine as, “Remember when we didn’t have to go anywhere and we could read for days on end?”

My goal today, is to help your children have the same reaction to, “Let’s have a reading marathon,” as they would to, say, video-game- or movie- or chocolate-chip-cookie-marathons.

Below are some tips to help you make this reading marathon happen:

COZY

Cozy, cozy, cozy. I’m talking sheet tents or cardboard box forts, holiday twinkle lights, every pillow from every bed, every stuffed animal from every corner of the house. Creating the reading cave is half the fun.

PLAY HOOKY

This is not a day to say, “When you’ve made your bed, the reading marathon can begin.” This is a day to say, “When we have a reading marathon, it is a cardinal rule that NO beds may be made, no matter what.” Chores are important (Asbys Like Clean Houses, remember?), but they can be postponed on the oh-so-special reading marathon day.

And if possible, try to take the vacation day yourself, or at least take it in shifts with your partner if you have one. Or maybe your reading marathon is the three hours before bedtime. It’s sure to be more of a success if it’s a family affair, especially the first time.

FRESH BOOKS

This is key, and VERY tricky right now. If your library isn’t available for curbside pick-up, and buying new books isn’t in the Covid-19-era-budget, don’t despair! You have options. Text a friend and see if they would be interested in a no-contact, porch-pick-up book swap. Post on your local Buy Nothing group or neighborhood social media account to see if any neighbors have books to lend or gift. And even if your library is closed, they almost definitely will have e-books available. You can also sign up for a free trial of a e-book subscription service like Epic. You want your kids to be excited, and new-to-you books are thrilling.

SNACKS

The Asbys are as serious about good food as we are about good books, and we’ve found pairing yummy snacks with great books to be an almost always successful combination. Prep these snacks (and meals!) ahead of time, so that you don’t even have to set the book down to grab a plate of deliciousness. You can even take empty egg cartons and put tiny snacks in each cubby. Kids love variety and small things, and the novel presentation will make those peanuts and raisins and white chocolate chips seem exceptional. To make it feel even more like a movie-marathon, be sure to include popcorn on the menu.

VARIETY

Unless you’re reading the Harry Potter series or something equally fast-paced, you’re probably not going to be reading the same book all day long. Try to have page-turners (Percy Jackson, How to Train Your Dragon, Ranger’s Apprentice), cozy stories about families (RamonaLittle WomenAnne of Green Gables), graphic novels, comics (we love Calvin and Hobbes), picture books (yes, even for the older kids), poetry, and some nonfiction (if your kids are new to nonfiction, start with something shocking with lots of pictures, like Guiness World Record books). It’s also important to have books both at and below your child’s current reading level. They don’t need to try hard all day; this is a day to relax. Maybe include an old series your kid liked a long time ago. Did they love The Magic Treehouse series when they first learned to read? Just leave a stack of them nearby. Reading something they loved a few years ago with ignite a happy nostalgia, and as a bonus it will make them feel older. What kid doesn’t love that?

You also want variety in the type of reading. Maybe you read independently until the next snack break, and then you listen to an audiobook together. After that, maybe you read a joke book aloud or something funny. Then back to independent reading. Have a schedule so kids know what to expect, but be flexible if they are hooked and can’t stop their independent reading.

That’s the goal – that your kids will be so into this reading marathon that they won’t want to stop.

(Don’t blame me if they don’t make their bed for a week.)

Happy reading and good luck with quarantine!

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