Reading books aloud together has been a family activity since the printing press was first invented. A passage or two from the Bible used to be a ritual on mornings in the settlements or on the trails heading West. Now, people hardly take time to read by themselves, much less as a family. If you're looking for a way to inexpensively sweep your family into an adventure that will last longer than a day, consider reading aloud together as an option.
If you decide to pick up this activity together, make it a tradition. Figure out a time in all of your schedules where you can sit down and read together for a set amount of time. Choose a space in your house or another suitable location (like a library study room) where you can come together; be consistent about reading there. Have a specific drink or snack that you share while you read, as another way to bind the experience into a tradition.
Make the activity special! This may mean allowing the kids to eat a special sweet they aren't normally allowed, or maybe it means you softly play a CD in the background that has all your favorite songs as a family. Maybe it means that afterwards you go out to a meal together, or take a family walk. Whatever it is, come up with a way to make the experience even more meaningful, so that all will want to participate in it.
When it's time to choose a book, go for something that will keep everyone's attention. Unless you're reading to a group of just girls, you may want to pick a book with some action and tension, so that the story will capture everyone's attention. If you've got a mix of genders listening in, find a book with a strong love story as well -- you'd be surprised how many of the guys will enjoy that aspect too (of course, they'll never admit it)! A lot of the classics are great fodder, as they have withstood the test of time and the reviews of many, many readers, so look into a list at your local library.
When are the best times to read aloud? Right before bed is usually a time when everyone is sleepy, docile, and present in the house. Another time is at breakfast, when the family is gathered together to prepare for the day -- although with the morning meal being so rushed in some households, it may not be easy to get everyone to pay attention. Try to avoid afternoon times, because someone will inevitably have something to do.
Don't read off of a computer screen! Part of this experience is holding the real book and being able to look up to see your listeners' faces, so don't just bail out and use an eBook reader or computer screen.
Do your read aloud with your family? What kinds of books do you share with your loved ones? Let us know here in the comments, then come on by to GarageSaleCow.com, where we've got tons of great resources for a frugal lifestyle like yours!