The Ultimate Guide to Establishing a Reading Culture in Your Home
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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.
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!
- Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers– Using books with gifted kids and a great read on the needs of gifted children
- Caught up in a Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books & Imagination– Another book by Sarah Clarkson on using books to form character and courage.
- 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!
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.
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.
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.
- Book Club: Adding Enchantment to Our Homeschool– book clubs hosted by Hide the Chocolate on all sorts of books for kids of all ages
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:
- How to Homeschool with a Kindle– Information on how we use this eReader and tablet in our homeschool.
- 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.
Other Posts on Reading at Blog, She Wrote
Building a Reading Culture is so important to us here at Blog, She Wrote. Check out these other posts related to reading.
- 100 Books You Should Read by the Time You Turn 20– This is a post written by teens for kids and in response to the NPR all time lists of books to read. Which ones have you read?
- How to Turn Emergent Readers into Super Readers– What do you do once phonics is over and you still need more practice to become a fluent reader?
- How to Keep up with An Accelerated Reader– Do you have a voracious reader at a young age? How do you keep them in books?
- Summer Reading without the Carrot and the Stick– Encourage reading during the summer (and throughout the year) without the incentives. Learn about engaging kids with books!
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!
Heather – I was not about to get to this page from the UG homepage. The link there was broken. I knew this one was going to be good, so I kept looking, but you don’t want others to miss it!
Thanks Pam! Not sure why…I used the link I started with over there. I’ll check into it!
Yup, I just checked. The permalink was given to Amy when my wp.org blog was still a temporary IP address. Boo! I hope they can get it fixed. Thanks so much for letting me know. I was transitioning to this self-hosted wordpress site when I gave her the link. Oh dear!
Thanks for sharing my book list. This is a wonderful post!!
Thanks for the list Karyn!
WOW — what a HUGE list of resources – thanks so much for sharing all this great stuff!!!
You are welcome Christine. Thanks for stopping by!
I can’t wait to read through all the ideas on this page. what a wonderful resource! Thanks for pulling all this together and including my post!
You are welcome Amy! This was a fun post to put together. I hope it’s helpful.
The library shelf is a wonderful idea. With 6 children, I have tons of library books floating around the house at any given time. I also like the idea of being able to show off our weekly theme. Thank you for the suggestion!
You are welcome Sara! The library shelf transformed the library book issue for sure! Still love it as much as I did when we first got it years ago.
Amazing guide, thanks for putting this together, and I echo pretty much everything you said here 🙂 Good to know you’re here.
Hi there! I just recently watched a video with you and a few other homeschool veterans giving us newcomers tips on doing “unit studies.” Thank you for sharing your insight.
I am new to unit studies AND year round schooling, and have been enjoying all the wonderful information you have listed on your wonderful blog! Thank you for that, too!
Do you have any suggestions on how to develop an independent learner? I’m having trouble figuring out how/when to walk away and encourage my homeschooler to be a more independent learner and researcher, and study-er. Thank you!
You are welcome…you might enjoy this post on The Myth of Independence https://blogshewrote.org/2015/10/08/the-myth-of-independence/ It’s got a lot of information on what healthy independence looks like while schooling at home.
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