Dear Alex & Liz - Frustrated with Story Time

Dear Alex & Liz,

I have a 4-year-old daughter who hates story time! Every night she gets up and walks away when I try to read to her. It’s frustrating. When she stays put she isn’t listening and asks to watch tv instead. I’m worried because we’re trying to get her to learn how to read, and if she doesn’t even want to listen to me then you can guess that she doesn’t want to work on reading by herself! 

What can I do differently?

Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

You’re right - that IS frustrating! Before we get to what you can do differently, let’s take a closer look at the situation. 

First of all, I want to commend you on the daily story time! Reading to your daughter every night is incredibly important for a multitude of reasons, one of which being the development of her literacy skills as you pointed out. It’s wonderful that, despite story time not going as well as you might’ve hoped for, you’ve stuck with it. This is not an easy thing to do when you’re being met with such resistance! 

However, there’s more to this situation than just your daughter’s resistance. It sounds as though you and your daughter are experiencing the same emotion (frustration) over the same issue (story time). Every night, you both engage in an activity that leaves you both frustrated - and it’s this that we want to change. Instead of the battle being you vs. her, it’s both of you vs. this story time that has dissolved to become a source of conflict. 

So now that you’re both on the same side, how do we end this battle? The short answer: by working together to change story time. But what does that look like? 

The first step to take is to have a conversation with your daughter. Instead of telling her that she needs to listen to the stories you read, ask her questions. Does she like reading? If not, how come? What is it about story time does she not like - where it happens, the books you read, how long story time is, etc. It’s important to identify all the aspects of story time that she dislikes, as you’re both going to work together to change it. 

Next, start asking questions about what she does like. Were there any stories that she enjoyed? If not ones that you’ve read, what about in Pre-K? If she is interested in ballerinas, for instance, would she want to read a story about them? We want to work to find a topic, character, or genre that she’s interested and go from there.

Then, when it comes to actual story time, have her take the lead. Where does she want to have it tonight? This goes for timing too - even if it’s just getting through half the book, it’s a start. Pressuring her to get through a book won’t foster an independent love of reading, and this is what we’re looking to build. Have patience, and over time the length of story time will increase.

Overall, it’s not about getting her to sit and listen quietly as you read to her. It’s about engaging together in an activity and making it fun for both of you. The more fun you both have with it, the less frustrating it becomes, and soon she will be sitting and listening on her own. 

So have fun with it! Create a story time together you both enjoy, and the rest will follow.

Alex & Liz

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