How to Find Time to Read as a Family on Busy Weeknights

There’s “never enough time in the day,” but there’s always time to read!

Jun 23, 2022



How to Find Time to Read as a Family on Busy Weeknights

Jun 23, 2022

Setting aside time to read during the week can be challenging. Fortunately, you just need 20 to 30 minutes of reading a day to boost your child’s literacy — and it’s up to you how you want to structure it!

Here are six expert-backed ways to read as a family when time is tight.


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1. Choose quick, action-packed books.

Shorter books are a great solution to the weekday time crunch. These quick and fun books make it easy to finish a whole book during your read-aloud, with time left over to sneak in a few questions about the text (and hopefully a laugh or two). 

Schedule permitting, you can read the book twice, focusing on a different skill each time — a favorite tactic of 2nd grade teacher Leana Malinowsky from New Jersey.  

“As a teacher, I encourage my early readers to read a book two times: once for fluency, to understand the words, and a second time to comprehend the story,” Malinowsky says.

Check out this list of short read-alouds under $5.

2. Limit screen time (if possible).

There are only 24 hours in a day, so be mindful of how much time your child spends on their phone and tablets. Limiting screen time is a favored strategy of Cara Foley, a parent of two daughters ages 12 and 17, when she wants to see reading results in her household. 

“The 12 year-old has stricter time limits than the 17-year-old,” Foley says. “She got her first cell phone for Christmas and has to be off all technology about an hour before she goes to bed.”

That, in turn, can shift your child's attention to books. Remember that just 20 minutes of reading a night is effective for raising a frequent reader.  

If your child loves their screen time — maybe they’re into gaming or streaming series — there’s a chance their favorite visual media has a book companion. Sometimes finding that just-right book means connecting the universe they’re familiar with on-screen to its extension on the page. Here are books with movie and show tie-ins your child will love.

3. Take turns with read-aloud duty.

It would be ideal if the whole family could drop everything and read together for 30 minutes every night, but we know that isn’t always possible. If there are two of you at home, rotate read-aloud duty so your child still gets that essential one-on-one bonding time with both of you. 

Families with more than one child can encourage regular reading by switching between group read-alouds and solo reading sessions. 

Amanda Henry-Godino, a parent of two boys ages 9 and 10, has found success in rotating family read-alouds with independent-reading nights, depending on her and her husband’s schedules. Encouraging each boy to read on their own has boosted their confidence, while family read-alouds are reserved for a special — and more complex — book that requires extra attention.

4. Read multiple books at a time. 

Henry-Godino’s strategy for building reading skills also means the family has many books going at once. This ensures your child has no gaps in their reading schedule and makes it easier for them to read more.

With multiple books on the nightstand, it’s likely your child will enjoy a variety of books — essential for learning different book types, like fiction and nonfiction. 

Your child may choose to reread a favorite picture book while working their way through a beginner chapter book. This way, they’ll continue learning new words and gaining reading stamina with the more complex text while improving their comprehension by revisiting familiar material with “fresh eyes.”

5. Listen to audiobooks.

Nancy Garrity, senior director of Early Childhood at Scholastic Education Solutions, recommends listening to audiobooks as an alternative to reading when you’re traveling, perhaps in the car or on the subway between school and sports practice. Pairing audio with the printed book makes for a deeper connection to the text.

“Give your child a printed copy of the book to follow along with as you listen together,” Garrity suggests. “Then, you can talk about it later!”

6. Consider alternate times of day for reading.

You don’t have to wait until bedtime to read: Families on the move should make sure their children have a book with them wherever they go.

“Take a book with you and grab a few minutes here and there — when you’re in line at the grocery store or waiting in the doctor’s office,” Garrity says. 

Impromptu read-alouds with early readers can be made special with a signature flourish.

“Make a bookmark with your child to hold your place when you don’t have time to get through the entire book,” Garrity says.

During the weekend — when things slow down — consider putting out a book basket for kids to pick through. Book baskets derive from the “morning basket,” a homeschool concept where children select their reading material from a variety that’s available in one place.

Book baskets are an excellent way to enable self-discovery, create motivation to read, and continue modeling reading in your home. You may just discover your child prefers to read in the morning instead of at night!

Shop great books for busy weeknights below. You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store

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