The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Blog, She Wrote: The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

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Reading. It’s what every parent hopes for their children from a young age. It’s the primary educational goal for young students in school. In fact, even after children learn to read, schools concern themselves with how well they are reading- with leveled reading books and reading comprehension exercises designed to improve fluency and understanding. This post is all about how to build a reading culture in your home without a structured, prescribed method but by immersing your home in story and books.

As homeschoolers, we have a unique opportunity to engage our children in the world of reading and most families I know want to take advantage of it. How do you go about establishing a reading culture at home? Let’s take a look.

Blog, She Wrote: Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home

Build a Home Library

For certain, one of the best ways to make reading a priority is to make books a priority. Surround your children with a print rich environment from the start.

  • The book basket- When our 15yo was a baby, we had a basket of books in every room he hung out in his nursery, the living room, the car, and the kitchen.
  • The bedroom bookcase- Make sure your child’s room has books! We’ll talk about organizing books in a bit, but having them where your kids are is important.
  • Buy Books- The library is a wonderful resource, but nothing beats owning books.
  • Get books at Library Sales- This is my favorite way of getting new titles because there is so much available at low cost.
  • Growing Your Home Library without Breaking Your Budget- A post on how to get books the frugal way.

Choose The Books for Your Library

Once you decide to build the library, how do you know which books would make a good library? Lucky for us, there is no shortage of resources and information on the topic! Here are some of my favorites and links to other bloggers with their own ideas.

  • Read for the Heart: Whole Books for WholeHearted Families- I love this book by Sarah Clarkson. She shares compelling reasons for making books a priority in your home. If you choose just one book to take away from this post, it’s this one!
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart- A classic book on using books with your children. I have one of the original editions and the newest edition which addresses screen time. You’ll find a nice anthology in this book to give you a hand with choosing titles.
  • Honey for a Teen’s Heart- Based on the same idea as the first title, this book focuses on books for older kids which is a much needed resource! I love this one because it shares how to communicate with teens using books. Imagine advice on enhancing the relationship you have with your teen based on shared books!
  • Charlotte Mason Series: Living Books- Cindy West tells all about “living books” and what to do with them. If you’ve never heard the term, living books are books written by one author who cares a lot about a topic. They make a much better read than text book type books which are edited by more than one person- less personal and more cursory on the topic.
  • Choosing Good Children’s Books- A look at how to go about discerning a good book for kids.
  • 50 Great Books for Young Readers- A lovely list of titles for elementary readers. I love a good list. Don’t you?
  • Emergent Readers to Super Readers- Wonder what books to put on the shelf for kids just leaving phonics and working on fluency? This is a must read!

Blog, She Wrote: Organizing Your Homeschool Library

Organize Your Home Library

Once you have a lot of books, you’ll need ways to organize your books as the collection grows. I’ve found a system which really works. What’s your preference?

  • Organizing Your Homeschool Library- Ideas for how to organize your books by topic. This is an older post, but we still organize books this way. Only we’ve added many titles since then!
  • Face the Covers Out- Find a way to face some of the covers out like they do in bookstores. I like to put books in a plastic shoe box so we can flip through them like papers. It saves bookshelf space too. The orientation of the books makes it easier for kids to see the books and choose to read them.
  • But Where Do We Keep the School Supplies?- A fun look at a homeschool library. I love the sheer volume of books from the basement up in this unschooler’s home!
  • Organizing Children’s Books- Another look at how you can organize books for young children.

 Set Up Your Book Environments

It’s important to have lots of areas with access to books. What does your home library look like?

  • Educating the Whole-Hearted Child- Sally Clarkson does such an outstanding job of explaining how your homeschool world could look. In it you’ll find suggestions from a veteran mom on how to encourage book reading at an early age. Trust me. This is inspirational!
  • Provide plenty of reading nooks and/or places where each child and go on their own to enjoy the book.
  • Help Your Child to Become a Confident Reader (and lover of books)- Great ideas on providing time for reading and a cozy reading environment
  • Homeschool Extras within Sight- Keep your books in your kids’ minds by setting them out on the mantle. Great tips on getting kids to notice books.
  • 10 Homeschool Centers- Include reading nooks. Love this tour of the Hodgepodge school by Tricia.

Blog, She Wrote: Library Shelf

Establish a Library Shelf

One of the best things I did for our homeschool library was to find a bookcase that I could use only for library books. Who among us doesn’t use an inordinate number of library books at any given time? Benefits of a library shelf:

  • One stop for all things library- easy to keep them there and have them returned there when a child is finished with a book
  • Easy access for exploring the books- when they are stuffed in the bag you bright them home in, they aren’t likely to be remembered or seen because they get forgotten about in there.
  • Makes a great way to find the books that need to be returned to the library- cuts down on (though doesn’t eliminate) the panic of finding a book on the due date as you try to scramble out the door!
  • The top makes a fun place for themed displays. (see link)

Read Aloud to Make Friends with Books

Reading aloud to your kids from a young age and long into their teenage years is a great way to make friends with books and to deepen and continue the relationship. It also soothes away the grumps and helps to refocus your kids on school. Need proof that it’s worth your time? Check out these posts and articles.

  • The Read Aloud Handbook- This is a topic near and dear to Jim Trelease and in this book he compels the reader to make the time for a host of undeniable reasons. Included with this book is a thorough annotated bibliography for extra help in choosing the right books.
  • Trelease on Reading- If you want to hear more on how reading aloud affects the ability of kids to read, check out Jim Trelease’s website. You’ll find a lot of great information here. One of the things I love about Mr. Trelease is his unwavering opinion that reading aloud does take a lot of time and it’s worth all the time you can give it.
  • The Reading Promise- This is a book about Alice Ozma and the books she shared with her father. It’s mostly about their relationship and the commitment he made to reading aloud to her. Their “streak” lasted well over 3,000 days. I’d love to see more about the books they read than the interpersonal goings on, but with regard to the reading commitment it’s very inspiring.
  • Tips for Reading Aloud- Ideas for how to have a successful read aloud time with your kids.
  • List of Our Favorite Read Alouds- This is the Baker’s Dozen version of a Top Ten list. Which ones does your family enjoy the most?
  • Introduce Your Kids to a New Series or Book- Often if I have a child who is reluctant to read a new book or author, I will start reading it aloud until they are drawn into the story. Then they will voluntarily read it by themselves- and love it.
  • Handwork Ideas for Read Aloud Time- Fun ideas for keeping hands busy while you read aloud.

Blog, She Wrote: Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture

Engage in Activities Based on Books to Have More Relationships with Books

My kids have always been taken with stories and making activities to go with books has never been a problem- even from when they were tiny. Here are some links and tips:

  • Create more fun from a book they love- without using any books at all, I would make up activities based on what I noticed them enjoying the most out of a book. For example, my oldest loved the book Too Many Pumpkins. One page he would spend a lot of time on is the page with all the jack-o-lanterns lit and covering two pages. I made a felt set of pumpkins of different shapes and sizes with the face pieces for him to decorate. I especially made sure to make the letters for his favorite pumpkin which said, “Boo!”.
  • Five in a Row- in all its forms including Before FIAR, Beyond FIAR, and even Above & Beyond FIAR. From preschool to middle school, this curriculum will introduce your children to books and the many layers of learning you can experience with them.
  • Picture Book Activities- this book has less formal activities such as snacks, fingerplays, and crafts that go with picture books. It’s written for preschoolers.
  • Picture Book Art- This is a lovely book with art lessons in imitating children’s story book illustrators. These are easy to follow making the process enjoyable and the results fabulous!
  • The Gentle Ways of Reading- A lovely post about how to incorporate books and reading into every day life with your children.
  • Summer Reading Fun- Ways to enjoy books all summer long with activities and incentives
  • Literary Adventures- An Adventure Box them to take your kids on a literary voyage. If you want a way to immerse kids in a fun learning experience, check this one out.

Host a Book Club  & Other Ways to Involve Older Kids with Books

As your kids get older, you can try a lot of different ways to interact with books using more sophisticated conversation. Book clubs are a great way to read books you normally wouldn’t read and to try new foods and activities. Best of all, it gets middle and high schoolers talking about books and relating them to their own world. That’s a win!

  • The Kids’ Book Club Book- A nice volume all about planning & implementing a successful book club from tweens through teens. You’ll find out how to make the guest list, where to meet, how to invite, what to do and what to eat. There are also book suggestions with ideas for club meetings.
  • How to Host A Classics Book Club- Find out how to choose books and activities to go with classic book choices. Middle and High School students are often surprised at how enjoyable classic literature can be. One favorite idea is to watch the movie after reading the book and comparing the experiences.
  • 5 Reasons to Host A Book Club for Girls- We’ve been hosting a book club for girls since September and this post details all the benefits of girls enjoying a book together.
  • How to Start a Book Club for Kids- This post from World for Learning includes a free checklist to go through as you prepare for a book club. You’ll find lots of practical ideas on how to put a group together and what to do each time. Take a look at the bottom of the post where you’ll see activity guides for three classic literature pieces.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool Part 1

Use eReaders to Boost the Reading Habit

Book lovers are sometimes reluctant to embrace the eReader, but it’s been a lovely addition to our reading culture. Enjoy the following eReader resources:

  • Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool- This is part one of a post on using Kindles which focuses on the eReader format.
  • Quick Acquisition- One of my favorite reasons for using a Kindle is that you can have that book within a few seconds of browsing for it. This is great when you forget to plan ahead or you didn’t count on the one title you need. Sometimes a Kindle book is less than the cost of gas to get you over to the library!
  • Built in Dictionary- Kids don’t think it’s a big deal to look up a word they don’t know while they are reading. Works for adults too! Don’t get me wrong. I love a good print dictionary and everything you can do with it, but we often don’t bother to look things up and the ability to linger your touch on a word in the text and have the definition and other information appear is simply magical.
  • Ten Reasons to Use a Kindle in Your Homeschool (Part 2): The Kindle Fire- The Kindle Fire brings color and interactiveness to the book party. It allows you to view picture books. While this may seem crazy to some, it does open many possibilities for taking large numbers of books with you on vacation! I love the Kindle Fire for reading pdfs and non Kindle ebooks over the eReader.
  • Free Kindle Book Series- Judy at Contented at Home keeps a fantastic list of free books you can get by series for the Kindle. Follow along with Judy so you can get all her latest book from Amazon.
  • eReader Homeschooling on Pinterest- See my collection of eReader ideas for homeschooling and reading.

Surrounding your family with good books and reading them together is never wasted time. At this point in our homeschooling, we have grown four excellent readers- some reading earlier than others, but all going from just starting out, to emergent reader, to fluent reader, and finally to being a fully engaged voracious reader. Even my 8yo is a reading hound. His greatest love right now are computer manuals as he tries to learn new programming languages!

Enjoying books together has always been a part of our family culture and it pays off in big ways as your children become teens. Ethan, my 15yo is taking literature classes both at home and at our co-op. Reading and discussing books with your teens is a fun way to stay connected.

Invest in your homeschool library! Establish the reading culture early on and enjoy the benefits of learning together with books.

Other bloggers with the iHomeschool Network are sharing Ultimate Guides today. The topics are terrific so make sure and stop by to see all the resources waiting for you!

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Our Learning Environment

Blog She Wrote: Learning Environment

It’s time to share our learning spaces with everyone! We’ve been homeschooling for eight and a half years and our learning environment has changed a lot over that time. When E14 first started homeschooling half way through first grade, we had just one small table in our living room and a bookshelf for his school things. As we added more children to the official homeschool roster, we added books, larger tables and we dedicated part of our playroom to homeschooling. Last year when we began looking for a new home, we knew we were looking for some place special. It had to have space for our learning materials, our homeschool library, and our project spaces.

Blog She Wrote: Learning Environment

Requirements for Our Learning Environment

Our focus is not to recreate a school classroom in our home. However, with four kids immersed in learning throughout the day, it’s hard to miss that we homeschool. Here are a few “must haves” for our learning spaces.

  • Bookshelves for our homeschool library- while we do use the public library extensively, it’s important to have a variety of print material in our home. Bookshelves are essential.
  • Media Area- for the computers the kids use for school and projects. We keep them in the media room.
  • White Board- classroomish I know, but I often use it for explaining things. Or to write down assignments and reminders for the day. And sometimes the kids work problems and their own explanations on the board. I keep portable white boards on hand too for working math problems and playing games.
  • Large Table- for school work and projects. Though the kids can go to any area to do their work, they often work there together. We put it right in the large window so there would be plenty of natural light.
  • Storage Cabinet- or closet for homeschool materials that are not books. We have one large wooden cabinet which was a very special gift from specials friends and we have bookcases in our basement which hold everything else.
  • Project  Work Space- We wanted to provide a place where each of our kids could work on their own and plan and work on projects. Click to see how the kids (and parents too!) have set up their project workspaces.

Blog She Wrote: Learning Environment

Using Walls for a Homeschool Learning Environment

While it would be homier to not use posters and maps on our walls, the extra immersion is great for growing minds! The only thing I’d change? I’d put wooden frames around each one if I could!

  • Maps- both US and World. I’d love a large physical map of the world too. We have a laminated set I bought at Staples many years ago.
  • Periodic Table of the Elements- I went for the one that has pictures of the actual element by Theodore Grey.
  • Calendar- a regular wall calendar is all you need, but I was compelled to buy a pocket calendar. I do not have calendar time! Conversation about the calendar has successfully taught all of my children the nuances of the calendar year. However, I love the calendar printables from Carisa at 1+1+1=1 for a fun fact finder and theme. Since J8 is starting his entomology club, I put the insect theme in for August.
  • Bulletin Board- for student work and other displays
  • White Board- previously mentioned. I also love a good chalk board and had both up in our old learning space.
  • Student Work- on display this could be work hard earned, work done well, and art work. Love to display art work.

Blog She Wrote: Learning Environment

Homeschool Technology

We make ample use of technology in our homeschool. Here are a some examples:

  • Computers- two desk tops and a lap top for student use.
  • Open DNS- is the filter we use for content at our house. It’s not perfect, but it works well.
  • LEGO NXT- we’ve had NXT for many years. Our kids are active on FIRST LEGO League Teams and Dan coaches. We are eager to be able to purchase the upgrade EV3.
  • Project Time- can include programming the NXT, Scratch, Alice, and other programming software for kids. Other software applications for word processing and presentations are encouraged.
  • Digital Microscope- We have the Intel Qx3 which is a nice video scope and can take stills and video of the object.

Blog She Wrote: Learning Environment

Tips on Using a Homeschool Library

We have books in almost every room of our home. Here are a few tips on handling homeschool books and making sure they get noticed and read:

  • Rotate books- especially if you don’t have room for all the books to be out or on a shelf
  • Reference Books- should be easy to find and use. We have a magazine rack that is our reference shelf.
  • Library Shelf- to shelve books we have borrowed from the library.
  • Display Area- this is the top of the library shelf for us, but I use it to put out books I want the kids to notice and leaving the book open is very inviting!
  • Coffee Table- is a great place to leave books you want kids to notice. Both the coffee table and the display area never fail to promote interest in a book. Try it!

Blog She Wrote: Learning Environment

Blog She Wrote: Learning Environment

Other Learning Environment Links from Blog, She Wrote

Take a look at these other posts on our learning spaces- they are all still in use today.

  • Homeschool Library- more detailed instructions on color coding book genres and how to organize the books. As soon as I have time, I’d like to update this post to include our new home library.
  • Our Supply Cabinet- this is where we store our paper and art supplies for school. This post gives a list of what we have on hand in there.
  • Learning Spaces Full Tour- from last fall. Things look nearly the same thought we’ve added more books!
  • Displaying Art- a post on how we use student work all over our home.

Thank you for joining us today at Blog, She Wrote for a look at our learning environment. Please sign up to receive updates in your inbox so you don’t miss the rest of the Not-Back-to-School Hop and the weekly Geography Quests here at Blog, She Wrote!

Visit other homeschool bloggers to see their learning spaces this week.

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Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Top Ten Tuesday this week features bloggers’ top ten favorites in a book category and, of course, I chose Science & Nature.

Top Ten Science & Nature Book Picks at Blog, She Wrote:

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Let’s- Read -and- Find- Out Science seriesThese books come in a variety of topics and levels for elementary aged students. I love how well concepts are explained and the illustrations are lovely.

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Usborne Big Books of Experiments & Science along with the Usborne Science Activities books- Usborne is a great company with so many titles. The Big Books contain a lot of detailed procedures and ideas for crafting science activities. The Science Activities (three volumes) are superb for having kids read their own science and try the ideas by themselves.

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Finder Books- Dichotomous keys for many species like trees, ferns, flowers, winter trees, and winter weeds. These require a different set of skills to use besides picture matching. You identify items by the process of elimination based on characteristics of the species.

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Cool Stuff and How it Works- just like the title says, this book contains facts on how cool things work. For example, LCD screens, mp 3 players, x rays, infrared photography, etc is explained in this wonderfully illustrated book.

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Ben Franklin Books- There are quite a few books about Mr. Franklin and his inventions. Here are a few fun ones we’ve enjoyed:

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Usborne Discovery Internet Linked Books- not sure these are still around, but they have excellent photographs and Usborne has a landing page for the internet links. That means they keep them up to date…no broken links. In theory.

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

The DK Encyclopedia of Animals- a fun reference book for the animal kingdom. It’s not exhaustive, but it is enjoyable and the pictures are fantastic. E14 loved to read about animals so he poured through this one when he was younger.

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

One Small Square Series- Oh how Iove these books! The illustrations are amazing and you get a look at a habitat from under the ground to above the trees. Embedded within all the facts are activities for you to enjoy.

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Kaleidoscope Kids Books- There are a variety of topics in this series from history to science. These are great activity books full of hands on things for kids to investigate along with facts and history.

Blog She Wrote: Top Ten Science & Nature Books

Janice VanCleave Books- how could a list like this be complete without a nod to Mrs. VanCleave? She has several series of books devoted to all areas of science and beyond to math and geography. I love her Mind Boggling Experiments You Can Turn into Science Fair Projects books. The best part about these books is you can always find an easy experiment that works. If you are hunting for an idea on how to develop a concept or you are discouraged by what experiments your curriculum has, this is your source for the tried and true.

As you can see, we have no shortage of favorites. What are your most used science and nature resources?

Other bloggers of iHN are participating in the 10 Weeks of Top 10 Lists 2013. We’ll be linking up every Tuesday and I encourage you to hop over and see some other blogger lists.

The Curiosity Shelf

We started school this past week and one of the highlights was this learning display on what I’ll call The Curiosity Shelf- the top of the library bookshelf. We have a little something for everyone.

One day I saw J6 at this box and he said to me, “I’m just admiring these pieces of glass.” Yup…that’s what is all about. He’s rowing Night of the Moonjellies and I pulled a bunch of ocean go alongs.
I9 is studying The Captain’s Dog- a little Lewis and Clark fun!
E12 has started Quest for the Middle Ages and I know a few boys who are excited to try that castle model when it’s time. Of course with a recent hurricane we pulled out some Magic School Bus.
R11 is working through her Portraits of American Girlhood, but we started with Kaya who is not in the book. She is making a model all about Nez Perce life with research and great care. We are also doing some cooking and sewing Nez Perce style. CurrClick is starting up their American Girl club soon. Not sure we’ll join in, but we have the invitation since we had joined up last spring and they canceled it.

Admittedly, we are not off to a smooth start. I decided, perhaps unwisely, to let the kids pursue studies of interest which is keeping me on my toes. I need to rethink a few things and work with my daily routine and hopefully things will level out in the coming week.

How has the school year begun for you all?

Winter Display


This is our most recent unit display which has on it some winter books to enjoy along with one copy of our Birds of New York book. You never know when a fun bird will happen by or you have a question about a bird.

There’s a Civil War Fandex along with a copy of If You Lived at the Time of the Civil War. We returned the library books we had on the topic, but these two resources get a lot of time. On the other end are gobs of books about westward movement because I had been wishfully thinking we’d step back in time to the Oregon Trail and follow along with the Westward Ho! Program. I’ve since changed my mind, but I’m still working on what might be next on our itinerary this year.

I came across some cute bulletin boards at By Sun and Candlelight. Check out Winter Learning with Dawn and February with Dawn.

My plan for our words is to have the kids do some writing. R9 will be given a poetry assignment with the winter/February words and I7 will have to choose several to write sentences with. Nothing earth shattering here, but it is a novel way for them to choose words and it requires a small adventure just to find the words they are to use.

We’ll also do an art project to put in our gallery frames above the display. Sometimes we forget and right now I think the thankful poems need to come down!