Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

The Importance of Reading Aloud

I began homeschooling 18 years ago and, after a fumbling around year, trying to find my footing, I found Sonlight curriculum. That was a perfect fit for us in many ways. One of the best things it taught me was the importance of "Read-Alouds." We had read to Katie, our first born, since she was an infant. Sleepless nights were filled with reading her stories from the Red or Blue Fairy Tale books, not that she understood them yet, but hearing our voice comforted her and we were instilling from the beginning the importance of books. When she became old enough to understand the stories, in addition to the engaging picture books, we also read her books far above the level that most people would consider appropriate. She might not have understood every word, but she did understand much and the skills of learning vocabulary through context was just beginning.
Sonlight was a perfect fit for us when she became old enough for formal schooling because of its literature-rich philosophy. They always had a list of books for each grade level -good, thought-provoking literature that was always a bit ahead of the reading level for that grade. They were meant to be read by the parents, not the child. There were other books, on their reading level for them to read, but these books opened new doors for Katie, and then later, her brothers, as well. While they were still struggling over the simple language of beginning readers, their minds were opened to rich literature and vocabulary, which created a thirst for more books. I continued to read aloud to my children well beyond when they could read whatever they wanted to themselves, not because they needed me to read to them as they did in the early years, but because it was a beautiful time of sharing, that was so much deeper and richer than watching a movie together. Now my older kids sometimes want to share that experience with their younger siblings and will read books to them with joy. Every night we read just one chapter from two or three books. At just one chapter a night, they take a while to complete, but it is a wonderful, looked-forward to time. Sometimes they don't like the book right away, but usually, as they stick with it, they begin to appreciate why these books were chosen. I do take the time to choose the books carefully, and the best loved ones have been read to each of them as the came along. As they were brought out for each new child, often the older ones would get this nostalgic look and say, "Oh, that one!" as if greeting an old friend. Sometimes they sit in on it when I read to the younger ones just so they can hear it again.
My 12-year old has a lot of difficulty with listening skills. His mind wanders between sentences and he often looses track of what it being read. At first we stopped and filled him in every time he became lost, but soon he was stopping us every few sentences and the situation was getting worse instead of better, so we stopped filling him in. He has learned that when his mind has wandered, he needs to listen with more attention again and he soon picks up the context to the story. We have found that if he builds with Legos or Citiblocks while we read, this can occupy his mind enough to actually keep him more focused on the story instead of less. This was a surprising discovery as I thought it would distract him even more so.
This month we have been reading The Indian in the Cupboard, Lynne Reid Banks and The All-of-a-Kind Family, Sydney Taylor. Sometimes I add it a short picture-style book, like last night I added in Music for Alice, Allen Say because it talks about the interment camps of World War II, which we will be studying soon.
At teatime I sometimes read poetry, but lately the younger boys and I have been reading the Magic Tree House series together as part of their reading time. The two boys have been slow to learning to read and making this time special with a small snack or cuddling time on the sofa has taken the edge off what could otherwise be an upsetting time. Taking turns reading helps with this as well. Then it is more like they are beginning to participate in the reading of books to others than it is the stumbling through a difficult subject.
Be sure to check out the Reading Aloud Challenge at Footprints in the Butter.
Here are books from the bookshelf this week:

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