Episode 179: Great Ideas for Incorporating Reading into Your Day with Kristin Wynalda of “Big Books Little Ears”

Our Guest: Kristin Wynalda

Kristin Wynalda likes Agatha Christie mysteries, chai, and her job as a mom of four. She reviews children’s books at bigbookslittleears.com. She is known for reviews of secular books through a Christian lens, theology deep-dives of Christian picture books, and curated lists of the best books on the faith market. Kristin believes that YOU are the best person to choose books for your family, and she will equip you to do that!

Fun Book Discussed in this Show:

Show Transcript:

Terrie (00:10):

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. Okay, today we have Kristin Wynalda with us again and I’m so excited for today. Thank you for joining us, Kristin.

Kristin (00:27):

Yeah, thanks for having me back.

Terrie (00:29):

Well, we’re going to pick your brain. We’re going to interview you today about what are your secrets for helping parents find time to weave reading into our daily schedules. You have some great ideas and I can’t wait for you to share with it. Let’s talk about that. So, during the school year, what do you do most to build reading into your daily routine?

Kristin (00:49):

Yeah, that’s a great question. So for those who don’t know, our kids are not homeschooled. We have kids in school. I got two kids in school and then two little still at home, so a lot of times it feels like those of us who have our kids in school can feel like, ah, all this- all this read aloud stuff that’s on the internet, it’s for homeschool kids. No, no, reading is for everybody. So there are definitely ways that we try to build some reading time in, and my number one way is audiobooks. We listen to audiobooks in the car all the time. I turn an audiobook at home on at home while we’re prepping dinner. If my husband is traveling for work and it gets to dinner time and the kids are just like over me as their only parent.

Kristin (01:33):

We eat dinner by candlelight and listen to audiobooks and that just sort of like tames everybody, so that is a really easy way that we have found to build time in. Also, I look for those times where it’s a downtime that we have to have, or a time when I found myself relying on screens, and seeing if I can swap that out for family reading instead, so for example, my oldest has a 30 minute piano lesson once a week and we just have to sit in the car with all the other kids waiting for him to be done. I don’t have time to drive home or even really do an errand cause it’s kind of out in the country, so I caught myself being like, yeah, yeah, here’s mom’s phone. You know, watch movies or whatever, and instead we’ve started reading a chapter book during that time because it’s already built into our schedule.

Kristin (02:21):

Like, I have to do it, I have to sit there for 30 minutes, and so if you just look for those times and be like, “Oh yeah, I have to do that.” Another thing is I take picture books for car pickup line every day, so the two youngest girls hear that. I will say it does take some planning ahead if you’re going to work those things in, cause you have to download the audiobooks ahead of time and you have to put new picture books in the car every day, but it’s worth it once you find the time, like, oh yeah, I have these downtimes already built in.

Terrie (02:47):

Yeah. That’s brilliant. Okay, and do you do reading every night before bedtime as well?

Kristin (02:52):

Oh, this is a good question. So this might surprise you, but absolutely not. We do none, nothing before bed and that is because it’s just not part of our bedtime routine. Probably started that way because my husband traveled for work a lot up until fairly recently and by the time it was bedtime I was just done, and just like no, cannot read to people, so we don’t do a chapter book at bed, so let that be an encouragement to families. You can work books into your day, however works best for your family. You don’t have to do whatever you think everyone else is doing, and we read other times like tea time after school, but no, not at bedtime.

Terrie (03:30):

Yeah, and it depends on the kids too. Sometimes you read at bedtime and it wakes em up and gets em going instead of putting them to bed, so you have to be, you have to know your kids and your situation, so that’s awesome. I think we beat ourselves up so much trying to meet expectations that don’t even need to be there. We need to do what’s best for our kids and our family, so that’s great. Okay, and what do you do? Silent- you know, extended silent… What is it? Sustained silent reading, that’s what we used to always call it. Do you, with your older kids especially, do you find a time when in your school week that you would do silent reading?

Kristin (04:07):

Yeah, we do. So that is normally in the evening probably when you’re talking about other people might read chapter books as a family before bed. That’s when we would do our silent reading. We do it a couple times during the week, and the way I do it is that I’ll have everyone, all the kids turn in anything they want heated up in the dryer. So like Lovie’s blanket my daughter, her slippers, she always has to have her slippers heated, and then they go and get totally ready for bed and gather the books that they want to read in their bed, and they can be really funny, like my preschooler especially will bring like this massive pile of books to bed. I’m like, great, whatever, and then once all the kids are in their bed with their big piles of books and or their chapter books for my older kids, I run like a mad person with all the heated up stuff from the dryer and distribute it while it’s all still hot, and then they can read until lights out time when I go in and take the books out off of their bed and tuck them in, so that’s how we’ve kind of built silent reading into our schedule. Of course, my independent readers can read during their free time or if they have, you know, and they have to read so many minutes for school, so sometimes they’ll be like, ah, I got to go read, but that is like our built-in time is a couple evenings every week. It’s like, alright, bring the stuff for the dryer and then get your books and go to bed.

Terrie (05:25):

I love that. That’s awesome. Okay, and I especially love, I never thought about heating up the little stuffies and stuff. That would be cool. Alright, so then when kids are on holidays or breaks or snow days, do you have snow days where you are?

Kristin (05:37):

We do. We’ve had three this week.

Terrie (05:39):

Oh my goodness. Okay. I didn’t know if y’all just went out anyway. Here in Oklahoma, it’s like any kind of snow we’re like, “Oh no, nobody go outside.”

Kristin (05:50):

Well, I mean we got like 14 inches, so it was like…

Terrie (05:52):

Oh my goodness. Yes, okay, so on a snow day or a holiday, do you do anything different with your reading with the kids during that time?

Kristin (06:00):

I would say we probably get some more reading time in, but I don’t know that we, I don’t know that I sit down and schedule more reading time, it just kind of happens. Right, so it happens to be a good day to get an extra chapter in, you know, and summer’s probably different, but on snow days it’s more like, nah, it’s pretty cold out. Yeah. Let’s read another chapter, let’s stay inside and do this.

Terrie (06:21):

Let’s not have frostbite today. Okay, this is a question I have that so many people think you have to ask questions. When you’re reading with little guys about each page, are you one of those people who talks about the picture and talks about all the stuff in the, in the book? Or do you do it sometimes but not feel obligated to do it all the time? Where do you stand on that?

Kristin (06:46):

So that’s a great question. So I think that probably I do not do it very often, partly because when I read a book I don’t like to get interrupted, so if I was… Like, if I was a little kid sitting and listening to my story, I’d be like, “Please stop asking me questions. Like just turn the page, like nobody cares.” So I probably don’t do it very often. Of course I allow child led discussions, like if my child has a question about a picture, we will definitely stop and discuss that, but I tend to just read the story straight through unless it is the type of story where you need to, like the illustrations are part of the story to the point of where they have to understand the illustrations in order to understand the story, then we might stop. So like I think of like, I See Jesus by Nancy Guthrie, like the whole point is that Jesus is the shadow of the characters, so I’d probably I stop it and double check like, hey look at that.

Terrie (07:38):

Yeah.

Kristin (07:39):

I think we do a little bit of interaction but I don’t tend to focus on it too much. I tend to be more, let’s read the story and then talk about what you want to talk about.

Terrie (07:49):

Yeah. Yeah. Well with my firstborn I made the mistake of doing that with our first few books we read aloud and she loved that, so then I never could read a whole book. We had to stop on every page where she’s looking at everything in the pictures, and she’s an artsy person so she loves the drawings, you know, and then when she would read to her siblings, she taught them the same thing. So when the kids were young, I could never read a story uninterrupted ever, and it does, it gets hard after a while. It takes twice as long to read the story, so I don’t know what I recommend on that. I just know be aware what you’re doing today.

Kristin (08:32):

Whatever the day calls for. Right, some days call for a little faster movements.

Terrie (08:36):

That’s true. How often do you go to the library for your books? Cause to prepare and have the books, do you get most of your books from the library? Right?

Kristin (08:44):

I do. I hardly ever buy books, so yeah, I normally have between 90 and 150 things checked out from the library at any given time.

Terrie (08:52):

Oh my goodness.

Kristin (08:53):

Yeah, but that would count electronic resources too. Like our, all of our audiobooks are from on, like we check them out online from the library and you know, that type of thing, so okay, we go to the library once a week and we go to a small country library. A little more rural, and however, with interlibrary loan I can get almost everything I want, so if you are struggling to get what you want at your library, definitely look into like interlibrary loan and especially like a, most states have a statewide interlibrary loan, and sometimes you have to talk to multiple librarians to find someone who can help you with that, so if I ask a librarian in our little library, I’m like, “Hey, can I, can you help me get this?” and she looks for a bit and she’s like, “No, I don’t think I can.” Like “Great, thank you so much.” and the next week if a different library librarian’s on duty, I’ll be like, “Hey, can you help me get this?” and sometimes they know about different features of your state’s inter-library loan system and they can help you find things, so yeah. And sometimes we have to wait a bit, right? We were on the wait list for the latest Benedict Society audiobook for six months. Literally I was like, no, I’m not buying it, we’re going to do it.

Kristin (10:03):

So yeah, that’s how we make our budget work is we are at the library once a week and really use the interlibrary loan liberally, so I’m requesting stuff all the time and we have stuff checked out all the time, and I do buy some books. Like some of the books I buy normally end up being from like smaller publishing companies or they are self-published faith market books that I’ve already checked out and I know they’re really great and so I want to read them to my kids, but those are ones that the library doesn’t purchase or have available is eBooks, so those are the ones I happily purchase. So like for example, the Tales That Tell the Truth series from the Good Book Company.

Terrie (10:41):

Yes. Such a good series.

Kristin (10:43):

It is, and our library actually has started purchasing a couple as the publisher has gotten larger, but up until very recently I couldn’t even get them on interlibrary loan from the state. So I’ve purchased those, you know, we do make some purchases.

Terrie (10:55):

Well how do you find the time to preview the books? Do you preview every book before you read it to your kids?

Kristin (11:02):

I do not preview picture books that we get from the library because I don’t have time and also I’m the one reading them aloud. So if I don’t like something I just say something else like I just don’t read the text on the page, but for chapter books I do attempt to preview the chapter books that come into our home. I can’t necessarily preview all the ones that are coming from school by the time because they’ll check them out at the school library and then read them. They start right away reading them, but I try to preview all the ones that we’re getting from our public library and the ones that are coming into our home, so the way I try to find time is that I preview all of the chapter books while we’re still at the library, so I have everyone turn in what they want to check out for the day and then they go play with like the building sets or read other books or anything like that, and then I do a preview wall. We’re just sitting there and everybody’s happy playing at the library.

Kristin (11:52):

So that helps a little bit. Also if you are tight on time, Amazon one star reviews can be a gold mine of information about what could potentially be in a book that’s not right for your family, so if you are like, “Man, I don’t have time to preview this and like flip through it or anything like that,” pull up Amazon really fast, look for any one star reviews and if a mom has found something questionable, she will go and give it a one star review on Amazon and then you can be like, yes, that is very helpful, so I do that. I also try to keep a running list of books for each child that I’ve previewed already at the library or that have been recommended by sources that I like, super, super trust, and then whenever grandparents ask for gift ideas, I send them that list, so then if they get a bunch of books at the holidays, it’s ones that I know I already approve of so I don’t have to preview them under the Christmas tree. Like don’t read it yet, let me look through it. I’ve already checked them out ahead of time.

Terrie (12:45):

Oh that’s brilliant. I like that idea. That’s good. Okay, so now what do you do on summer break? I know you have some clever ideas for the summer and other holidays, long holidays. What do you do for that?

Kristin (12:56):

Yeah, we love summer break, so definitely sign up for some fun summer reading challenges. We always do the one from our local library, the Barnes and Nobles one and the Bookit one from Pizza Hut and I’m normally in charge of that. We don’t let our kids explore the Bookit website on their own because books that the website recommends aren’t necessarily right for every family, but any challenge that is like open-ended and lets us pick the books to read, that’s great. We signed up for all of those. We also have had really good times reading a longer chapter book over the summer and then planning a themed party with another family for the end of the summer that’s sort of centered around that book.

Terrie (13:34):

That’s good.

Kristin (13:35):

And that gives us accountability for one thing, so it makes us power through to that next chapter and not fall into the summer slump, so for example, last Summer we had like the most fun Pilgrims Progress party and the kids were like, I remember this part of the book, this is so fun, and so that was really fun. We’ve done that. We’ve done the same thing with The Children of Noisy Village too, which is shorter but is a fun one to have a party around and I don’t know what book we’ll do for a party this summer, so I’m open to some suggestions but we are just looking for books that have a wide age range of listeners, cause that way we can all hear the same one and then plan a party around it, and of course food is always part of my reading plan.

Kristin (14:15):

So especially in the summer it’s fun to play outside and like play really hard and then come in, serve a bunch of popsicles and then read a chapter or two of our current book or turn on the audiobook, and a lot of times something I’ll do in the Summer that I don’t necessarily do during the more busy times of the school year, but in the Summer if I can, I’ll check out both the chapter book and the audio book from the library. Especially if it’s one that has like occasional pictures, and then I can hold the book and turn the pages while we listen to the audiobook, and that way I can eat my own ice cream too. We can all eat ice cream but we still get the pictures and hear the story.

Terrie (14:53):

That’s fun.

Kristin (14:54):

You know, this Summer can also be a lot like in the school year that we lean on audiobooks and we try to redeem random time of waiting for appointments and that type of thing.

Terrie (15:06):

And you shared before when we were talking about the library and talking about Summer, I can’t remember which episode, but I loved the idea of getting your children to explore other books you’d like for them to read instead of going back to the same old, same old. Can you share what you tell your kids about that you require them to read? What is it like two chapters before they reject a book or something?

Kristin (15:27):

Yeah, sure. So yes, some kids I know are so happy to branch out and find the next series and all those things, but my oldest especially is not that way. He only wants to read what he has read before, that’s it, nothing else. So we try to have him branch out a little bit, and so if I come back with a stack of 10 books at the library and I’m like, these are all your reading level and your like, sort of your interest level and all those things. I have a special spot on the piano where I put his little section cause he will never go to the library and pull a book off the shelf that he’s never read and be like this one, so I’ll find him and I’ll put his little section on the piano and then when it’s reading time like we’re all going to go read in bed.

Kristin (16:09):

I’m like, “Hey, why don’t you go pick one from your section?” and he’ll be like, “I don’t like this one.” I’m like, “Okay, two chapters, give me two chapters and then if you don’t like it we’ll return it, pick out a different one, no big deal.” So yeah, I ask them to give me two chapters and if they still don’t like it after two chapters, eh, I don’t care. There’s more books in the world, put it away then, and most of the time it ends up being like, oh yeah, this is pretty good. I’ll keep going.

Terrie (16:22):

Cool. I love that. Okay, what else? Do you have any other brilliant ideas?

Kristin (16:28):

Brilliant? I don’t know that I have any other brilliant ideas. I will say that your family is not abnormal. If you find that your kids don’t automatically gravitate to reading, like that’s okay. You can still work reading into your life, and one of the ways that I found to do that well is to like give the option of, “Oh hey, we can either read this chapter book together or we can do emptying the dishwasher, right?” Like, and they’re going to be like, “Alright, we’ll read the chapter book,” and then they kind of get into it and it’s more fun. Also I include food all the time, like basically all the time we can have popcorn while we’re reading and that type of thing. So yeah, don’t be discouraged if you feel like, oh this sounds so hard, or my kids would never do that. I review children’s books for a living and my kids don’t automatically want to do this all the time. So just try to, to give options of like, we can do this or we can do something Muslim and include food and candles and heat your lobbies up in the dryer and whatever it is to make those positive connections with books.

Terrie (17:31):

Yeah. You kind of make it an event and a meaningful event that way, and I love that it becomes more of a experience than just, oh, I’ve got to read something. I want to share a book with you because you know me and poems and poetry, and I love this one because it’s called Read, Read, Read, and it’s poems by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke, but in this book she writes poems about reading, but in them she’s giving you brilliant ideas of how you can read all the time wherever you are, no matter what. Like even reading road signs, cereal boxes and all those things, but the way she writes the poem, it’s like, for me anyway, it was like, oh my gosh, I totally did that as a kid, that was what I did. You know, you make your bowl of cereal and you’re sitting there reading everything on the box of cereal as far as fun and silly ways to read.

Terrie (18:20):

I thought it would be so much fun to read this book a little bit here and there and then have your kids say where they read that day instead of just focusing on books, where else did you read today? What else did you read today? And to have them talk about other experiences with reading as well, and I think that would encourage them to understand why we want them to read so much, because it’s a part of every part of our lives. When we go shopping at the store, we’re reading labels. When we go down the street, we’re reading signs, you know? And so I thought that would be fun to mention. It’s a fun book.

Kristin (18:52):

Yeah. I’ll have to check that one out.

Terrie (18:53):

It’s really cute. Alright, well thank you so much. This was great. I can’t wait for people to implement some of these ideas, and for our listeners, if you have a brilliant idea of what you do to help get your kids interested in reading or how you make a family memory with reading, share that with us. We would love to hear. Kristin, thank you once again for joining us. We always love it when you’re on the episodes.

Kristin (19:25):

Oh, thanks so much for having me.

Terrie (19:26):

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to grasp those teachable moments sparked by great books and to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media so people know we are here or leave comments on one of the podcast host sites. We truly appreciate you. If you would like to connect with Kristin, you can find her on her website, which is Big Books, Little Ears, and it’s wonderful. She has all kinds of reviews on the website. If you haven’t checked it out yet or joined her mailing list, I highly encourage you to do that. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment on TerrieHellardBrown.com. We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. We pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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