I have always enjoyed reading out loud with my kids and have done that regularly as a part of our nighttime routine. As our family has grown, making time to read aloud is a little more tricky. But over the past year, I’ve realized that when we are in the habit of it, I see each member of our family benefit in different ways.
The main focus of our homeschool for the past year has been reading. My kindergartner did reading lessons and read first reader books, all of which were necessary and helpful. But my main goal is for him to enjoy reading, not just know how to read. The lessons were teaching him the skill but were not cultivating a love of stories.
After I heard Sarah Mackenzie from the Read Aloud Revival speak this year, I bought her book, The Read Aloud Family. She explains in it how her family has built a culture of reading and enjoying books together through reading aloud. She talks about the inside jokes formed from books they read together and the discussions that were spurred from reading about controversial or difficult situations.
She also suggested that if a child does not seem to be very interested in reading, it’s because they have not found the right book yet. Every person loves stories! I was inspired. This is what I wanted in our home, in our homeschool, and in our memories. So I decided to focus on helping my kids find books they enjoy.
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I started taking a few trips every month to the library and I have a bag for my young kids to fill up with (just about) any books that interest them. I also choose a few that I think may grab their attention or that I know of from book reviews. Over the next week or two, we pull out a few books each day, sit on the floor and explore the stories. Some are duds, but they are more likely to give books a chance if they pick them out.
I noticed that my kindergartner’s reaction is much more enthusiastic when I ask him to read with me than read to me.
If I sit down with one of them and start reading, the other naturally gravitates to us. Even if I am reading a book one of them didn’t choose, they can’t help but want to come see and hear what we are reading. There have been times that the house is loud and chaotic and just reading aloud calms the tone. It has helped us transition to nap time. If the kids are bickering or getting on each other’s nerves, I can pull out a book and they will sit quietly together. This is also a way I can show the older two kids attention while I”m also feeding or rocking the baby.
I see the place for picture books for pre- and early readers. The pictures keep their attention while they listen. But this year we also starting reading some novels. We just finished a two-part series called The Edge of Extinction by Laura Martin. The story involves the return of dinosaurs and young kids’ dangerous adventure to save the world. I knew my son would eat it up! It was definitely one of those “just one more chapter” kind of books. I found myself even getting caught up in the story. Both of my kids picked up some new vocabulary words from the story- my three year old told me she was building a “laboratory” in her room after we had read about the lab in the book. Even though I knew she didn’t catch on to the whole story, she was absorbing more than I realized!
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Each night at the dinner table, we caught their daddy up on what we’d read that day and how the story had progressed. They were so excited to share the plot twists and turns with him. I saw a glimpse of that book club culture Sarah Mackenzie talked about in her book. This family habit it one I hope sticks long after they all can read on their own.