I've been wanting to share today's Homeschool Guest with you for a LONG time. Many of you probably already know Amy, of Hope is The Word. I have Amy to thank for inspiring me to read aloud more to my children. I also get many of our read aloud selections from Amy's reviews and book lists.
I KNOW you will benefit from today's post, about making reading aloud more pleasurable in your home!
I credit God’s direction and the internet with the inception of my career as a homeschooling mother. When my eldest child was born eight years ago, I really thought I’d take a year or two off from my job as an elementary school librarian (I had also previously taught high school), find a dependable babysitter for her by the time she was a toddler, and re-enter the workforce myself, with its lesson plans, schedules, and retirement and insurance benefits. Then I started reading blogs, and a tiny little kernel was planted in my brain. It took a while for my husband to get on board with the idea, but once he did, he really did. He has been my staunchest supporter and biggest cheerleader, and I daresay that if it were not for his support and encouragement, our life as a homeschooling family would’ve derailed by the time my youngest discovered crayons and the joy of coloring on the baseboards.
What made me feel like homeschooling was something I could do, though, was not my college degrees, nor the three endorsements on my state teaching certificate, nor my years of classroom experience. Do you know what it was? The fact that I already read aloud to my children. I mean, I was the kid on the high school quiz team who knew the answer to every nursery rhyme question, so reading aloud to my own precious children was a no-brainer. I had read Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook, but even more than that, I had an innate desire to share something meaningful with my children
What’s more meaningful to me than reading good books? Not much. I still remember our foray into the world of chapter books. Lulu was very young, about four, and Louise was eighteen months younger than she. I remember sitting on our sofa between the girls and beginning Little House in the Big Woods. This was something of a false start because we never finished it, but I persevered and plunged into something even more difficult: The Wind in the Willows! Although I did read the whole thing to my very young girls, I’m not sure I did the story, the voices, or the strange (to our ears) British sentence syntax justice.
By this time, though, I was totally hooked—since then we have read almost sixty chapter books, and at eight and six and a half, they have “read” such classics and notables as The Secret Garden; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; Peter Pan; Hitty: Her First Hundred Years; and Adam of the Road. Of course, we read picture books aplenty, too, but as the girls have gotten slightly older (and have become or are becoming voracious readers themselves), nothing has quite the draw of a well-written novel.
Over the years I've learned a few things about reading aloud, so I can offer a few hints that will make reading aloud a pleasure in your home:
- If you've never read aloud chapter books or longer works to your children, pick a book with short chapters or good stopping places (often these are denoted by breaks in the text or some symbol) to start. I offer a list of some books we've read while my girls were very young here. Many of the ones I list here would probably be most appreciated by young children, but several of them (like Charlotte's Web, the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, and Betsy-Tacy) are truly timeless and appeal to all ages.
- Pick a certain time of day to read aloud, and do it then consistently. During the school year, I read to my girls after lunch for as long as the toddler will let me. Since we’re taking our summer break right now from formal lessons, while the girls eat breakfast is the perfect time for our read-aloud session because it’s before we get started on our own projects or fun for the day.
- Carry your book with you when you run errands. You never know when a small pocket of time will appear during which you can read aloud. I’ve been known to read to my girls at the park while they finish their picnic lunches or in the van while we travel.
- Allow your children the opportunity to do something with their hands while you read to them. My girls generally listen quietly and sit still while they listen, but other children find keeping their hands busy while they listen helpful.
- Use audiobooks to help build your children’s listening stamina. My girls have listened to chapter books in audiobook format for about as long as I’ve been reading chapter books to them. I don’t think of the skilled narrators of the audiobooks as replacements for me, but I do think listening to audiobooks daily (usually during rest time) has conditioned my girls to listen to and follow longer stories during our read-aloud times.
As my children grow into fantastic readers themselves (for which I largely credit the many books I’ve read to them!), we are not abandoning our read-alouds! In fact, our read aloud time is the very highlight of our day, and that feeling is shared by every member of our household. In addition to creating a family intellectual culture, increasing my children’s vocabularies and attention spans, giving them the “sense” of a good story, and enabling them to tackle books far above their reading levels, it’s just plain old fun, for me and them. While there are some academic subjects that cannot be mastered through read-alouds (i.e. math and science processes, the nuts and bolts of language, etc.), I can’t help but believe that whatever the subject, the rich “science of relations” (to borrow a phrase from Charlotte Mason) created through listening to good literature can only enhance my children’s understanding of it.
If you’re looking for your next read-aloud, please visit my blog, Hope Is the Word, every Thursday for Read Aloud Thursday. This is a meme that has been going for three and a half years (!), so its archives are a rich storehouse of recommended titles. Please consider joining this wonderful meme, too, by linking up your post listing, reviewing, or detailing your family’s read-alouds each week. The post goes up at 5 a.m. CST each Thursday and is open until about 10 p.m. CST on the following Sunday. Everyone is welcome!
Amy is the stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of three: Lulu (age 8), Louise (age 6 ½), and the Dear Little Man (age 2). She loves reading, nature, and homeschooling, and she shares her thoughts about all three at her blog, Hope Is the Word.