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Reading aloud to your kids is like sunshine for the soul or a cool drink on a hot day! Nothing soothes the grumpies at our house like a read aloud. Nothing. I’ve been a long time advocate of reading aloud to your kids. Not just the bed time kind of reading, but the kind that can start at any time and last for hours. So, I thought it would be a good idea to give some pointers on how to get started with reading aloud and How to Make the Most of Your Read Aloud Time.
Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Children
There are all kinds of benefits to reading aloud. It is always time invested that pays huge dividends. Here are a few:
- Increases Vocabulary– Kids who hear big words regularly understand them and use them!
- Increases Literacy Success– Kids who have been read to for at least 20-30 minutes a day, have excellent pre-reading skills and end up learning to read successfully.
- Involves Dad– Dads make great readers for your kids and it has the added benefit of seeing that Dad reads and makes reading a priority. That’s a win in the world of learning to read.
- Brings All Ages Together– There is almost always a book choice that can cover the age spread of your kids. Often I will read something a little more geared to the younger crowd especially knowing I read with my teens as well. There are plenty of family stories to choose from for one of your current selections.
- Adds to Your Studies– What better way to learn about a topic than by being immersed in the subject via books?
When to Find the Time to Read Aloud
First of all, reading aloud to your kids is some of the best time spent in your homeschool. The benefits cannot be underestimated! That said, there some times when it’s especially a good idea.
- Start of the Day– Start your school day off together.
- Lesson Time– We have several books going as part of our academic time.
- After lunch– Begin together after lunch with a good book.
- Traveling– Take a good book along and read it while you are on the way somewhere. Can’t read in the car? Audio books make a great traveling companion.
- Vacation– We read around the campfire or to settle everyone down in a tent before lights out. Yes, even still!
- Day Long Outings– I have been known to gather my kids around at home shows, while my husband talks with vendors, and read to them. We enjoyed the bulk of Nim’s Island this way!
- Waiting Areas– If you have appts and other waiting times, a good book is a great way to pass the time. On a recent trip to the ER, we read to our patient while they observed him.
- Hikes & Long Walks– I often bring along a book to read while we rest. This was so great when our kids were younger!
- Winter Evenings– When you need a break from screens, gather around and enjoy a story.
- When a Regrouping is Required– When a day is going badly, we drop everything and read together. This solves a myriad of ills and we can begin again refreshed and becalmed by a story.
Strategies for a Successful Read Aloud Time
I know what some of you are thinking. The read aloud is almost a cliché in the homeschooling world. Some of you are groaning because you simply don’t like it. Aren’t good at it. Or haven’t made the time despite your best intentions.
Many of you probably are avid readers to your kids, but what do you do if you aren’t or if you have tried in the past but have not been successful with it. Maybe your kids don’t act interested. Maybe they are too squirmy. I can tell you I have been known to read to my kids for two hours at a time and if I stop it is most likely protested with kids yelling, “More!”
So, how do you get there? By just picking up a book and reading it to your kids. Enthusiastically and consistently. You can’t lose!
- Most kids enjoy sitting on the sofa or lying on a bed while you read.
- If you have little ones, they might enjoy some extra cuddle time while you read.
- Fidgety kids can take a spot on the floor rolling cars or playing with another quiet toy.
- Some of my kids really like to sit and draw while we read.
- Take it outside. I used to read to my kids while they played at the sandbox or while they would swing. Now that my kids are older, they like the change of venue on a nice day.
- Think about the best time of day for a read aloud- when is best for a quieter activity? Or maybe it’s a time when things are just out of sorts. A read aloud is a great way to restart our day.
- Know your audience! Pick books to which you know your kids will best respond.
- Read to your kids separately– We often think of reading all together, but you can drive interest by reading to kids on one one or to just a few kids at a time. This way you can pick up a book that might be fabulous for your older kids and not so great for the younger ones. Pour into your kids’ interests by setting aside time just for them.
How to Choose Books for Reading Aloud
With so many options out there, along with different preferences and family values, how do you choose which books to read? How do you know what’s appropriate?
- Consult books about books– There are annotated bibliographies designed to share about books which can give you information.
- Go with an interest– It’s hard to go wrong if you choose a book within a child’s interest.
- Prepare kids to read more in a series– I will often choose a read aloud based on a series I know my kids will love. One that I want them to read independently. Once I hook them with the first story, or even the first half of the first story, they are motivated to pick up more on their own. This is an excellent strategy to use when you have a reader who judges a book by its cover so to speak!
- Choose a family option– a book that can be read to everyone. Youthful enough that young children get it and written well enough to capture older kids.
What to Do If You Don’t Like to Read Aloud
Personally, I adore reading aloud to my kids. My kids also love to read aloud and they love to be read to! But if you don’t enjoy reading to your kids, what are some other options?
Audio Books– There are lots of sources for audio books.
- Audible– We love Audible. All of my kids are readers, but a few of them love audio books. A Kindle and an Audible account are a match made in heaven! With a free credit each month and deals on classics and lectures all the time, this has been a great investment for us.
- Libravox– This site has free audio versions of public domain books. Free is good, but some readers aren’t very good. It’s hit or miss.
- Jim Weisse– A perennial storyteller for the homeschool crowd, his stories are available on CD and mp3. This link is to the digital collection.
- The Library– You can borrow audio books both on CD and mp3 audio files through digital circulation.
Have the Kids Take a Turn– When I’m tired or under the weather, my kids are great at reading aloud. It provides speech practice for our apraxic kid and my teens love to read to me. My 16yo is reading, The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis out loud to me. Time well spent for both of us.
Do It Anyway– All it takes is 20 minutes of your time. 20 minutes is the magic number for big benefits. You might not be the read aloud queen, but surely you can muster up courage for 20 minutes of reading!
Resources on Reading Aloud
It’s always nice to have encouragement along the way. Reading aloud is a great tool in your arsenal to build a family reading culture. Here are a few places I find inspiring:
- Trelease on Reading– This is Jim Trelease’s website. You’ll find a lot of statistics on the effectiveness of reading aloud along with anecdotes. Reading is a big deal and Mr. Trelease shares all the compelling reasons to devote your time to it as a parent.
- Read Aloud Revival– Sarah Mackenzie has done a fabulous job of creating a community of parents who are committed to reading aloud. You can find free podcasts on this page on all sort of topics related to reading aloud- for young children and teens. Don’t forget to check out her membership site. I joined because I knew I’d love the extra inspiration on something we do. Sure, I’ve been doing it for years, but I love the cheerleading and resources.
- Storyformed– This is Sarah Clarkson’s site on reading and story. This corner of the internet is all about why stories are so important to children and well…all of us! You’ll learn about how story impacts our imaginations for a lifetime.
Related Blog, She Wrote Links on Reading
Building a reading culture is one of our strengths here at Blog, She Wrote. Please take the time to be encouraged by reading these posts.
The Ultimate Guide to Building a Reading Culture in Your Home– This is a one stop resource spot for all things reading and library building in our home.
How to Organize Your Homeschool Library– Part of building reading in to your day is having a rich source of print material. How do you keep it all ready to use and inviting?
100 Books You Should Read by The Time You Turn 20– This is a post put together by my high schoolers and it’s for high schoolers in response to the NPR list of 100 best book for teens.
Read aloud veterans good for you! Keep up the great work. Those of you who have not tried or have not been consistent I urge you to keep on trying until it works. Often times I will read aloud to a timid reader until he wants to take the book on his own. I get them into the book and then when they are impatient waiting on me to finish, they pick it up for themselves. How’s THAT for clever??
Another great benefit of reading aloud to your children is that when they read to you as emerging readers and beyond, you won’t be bored because they will read to you with the same inflections and tones of enjoyment with which they are read!
Truly that is a joy to experience.
Reading aloud to my kids is one of my favorite things to do! We have had many enjoyable hours reading aloud to our children over the years. The more you do it, the more you get used to it and the better at it you become. Likewise, the more you do it the better your kids get at listening and what a profound skill to have!
As much time as I’ve spent here, I’ve really only scratched the surface of the advantages of reading aloud for your family. Reading good books to your children at every age is a wise investment of your time- as a mom and a homeschooler. It reaps benefits far beyond those precious moments so enjoy them!