Reading aloud has been one of the foundations of our years of homeschooling. It teaches comprehension, sophisticated language patterns, and grammar, not to mention imagination and exposure to cultures, ideas, and history. This all sounds well and good, but what if your kids aren’t thrilled when you announce it’s reading time? Here are some doable ways to help your kids love read alouds:
Make it pleasant, not punishment. If it’s cold outside, gather around the fireplace with blankets and hot chocolate. If it’s hot, turn on a fan and sip iced tea. Creature comforts can turn read aloud time into an experience for the senses. You’re creating memories that they will carry all their lives. By the way, did you realize that kids can physically listen better if they’re draped over a beanbag or lounging rather than sitting up straight in a chair? It seems that their immature bodies can either concentrate on balance and posture or on listening. So telling them to “sit up straight and listen” is actually detrimental to their comprehension and concentration!
Choose great, interesting books. You wouldn’t continue to read a boring book yourself, so don’t make them listen to one either. Lists of great books abound in the homeschool world, so there’s no reason to read aloud a clunker. Give a new book at least two to three chapters’ trial before you toss it, though—some of the best books start slow but grow on you.
Read aloud FIRST. For years I tried to get all the “important” stuff done first, saving reading aloud for the afternoon. The only trouble was, reading aloud was postponed–or worse yet, cancelled–too often. I was tired, the baby was cranky, we had a doctor’s appointment….you get the picture. Finally it dawned on me that reading aloud was so important, it deserved a primary place in the schedule. At last! From then on, it was seldom skipped, and it started our day off with togetherness and united purpose.
Make reading aloud a journey together. Last year we read aloud the young adult version of Unbroken, the story of Olympic athlete and World War II prisoner of war Louis Zamperini. Reading the last pages, it was almost a holy moment. We had sat in the stands cheering for Louie as he won a race, held our breath as his plane crashed into the South Pacific, and agonized with his suffering of abuse in a Japanese prison camp. In between chapters, throughout the day, there were questions and comments as we continued to think about what we were reading. Our high schooler watched hours of YouTube videos of interviews with the elderly Louie. The book was naturally woven into the rest of lives because we shared it together. We were all sorry when it ended, and someone already suggested we read it aloud again this year!
Extend the learning with activities. Relax, this doesn’t have to be a full-blown unit study. It can be as simple as cooking a meal described in a chapter or playing a game mentioned by a character. We visited a museum while reading Unbroken, and the World War II exhibits came to life because of our read aloud experience.
In twenty-nine years of homeschooling, I would say that reading aloud has been the single most important learning activity we’ve done. It has certainly created some of the best family memories of our homeschool years. Reading aloud helped my children love reading and books, and that is the foundation of education. If you can read and comprehend, you can learn anything.
Adapt reading aloud to your family’s personality and life situation. There were many years that we used “busy boxes” to occupy little ones. Many a read aloud was interrupted by a diaper emergency or wailing baby. But we kept going and made adjustments and read many, many books over the years. In looking back, I’m glad we made the effort. Hopefully you’ll use some of these ways to help YOUR kids love read alouds!
What tips can you share to help your kids love read alouds?
Below are some additional articles you might enjoy!