The other day I was watching Victoria Gregson (of Rockstar Homeschooling Mum fame) giving a talk for the Australian Homeschool Summit. And she said something that stopped me in my tracks. She spoke about how watching the delight in her children’s faces when she read to them, made her ‘mum heart’ sing. Yes! This lady right here understands. She gets it.
But not everyone finds it easy to read aloud. I’m a huge fan of the read-aloud, and even I confess to not always finding it easy or enjoyable to read to my children. I do have a few tricks to help make it a lot more fun and a lot easier to accomplish on a daily basis.
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It’s hard to make yourself read a book if you just can’t stand the book. I flat out refuse to read twaddle to my kids. I don’t mind so much if they choose to read it on their own time, although I encourage them to read widely, but I’m not going to torture myself with insipid characters and weak story lines when there are so many amazing books out there! I once heard someone say that the mark of a true classic children’s book is one that you will love reading well into your adult years. Try choosing a book you loved as a child or one that comes highly recommended by another mama and go from there. If you start a book and you find yourself dreading read-aloud time, ditch the book and choose another one. There are too many wonderful books out there to waste your time on the so-so ones. Your kids can always read it to themselves if they really love it.
It is so frustrating to sit down to read to your children and they just don’t want to listen to the story. It can feel like a rejection of you as the parent when they complain or misbehave during what is supposed to be a special time as homeschoolers. Listen up, mama. You’re kids aren’t rejecting you, they are rejecting the book. Get smart about your book choices. Books that are too young won’t hold their interest, and books that are too far above their comprehension level go in one ear and out the other, leaving the child feeling bored and frustrated at best, stupid at worst. Choose books just above your child’s reading level with subject matter s/he is interested in. You can move towards more difficult books later but before anything else, you want read aloud time to become a loved activity.
There are a hundred and one tasks to do everyday, and that’s before you’ve even started lessons. It can be tempting to dismiss reading aloud as something fun but non-essential, and then bump it from your to-do list. Worse still, if you haven’t come to enjoy reading aloud yet, you might be deliberately running out of time. Caught you! But seriously, please don’t leave this one off the list. Reading aloud is a fantastic bonding experience, helps to develop a child’s love of literature, increases their vocabulary and exposes them to a wider variety of books than they might otherwise choose on their own. Try making read aloud time first up each day so that it doesn’t get missed in the busy-ness of the school day. And if you don’t really enjoy it (yet!) well at least you’ve got it over and done with and can move on to things you like better 😉
Just like reading first thing makes sure you get this done, keeping your books handy is a big help too. Leave your current book on the table, in a basket beside the couch, carry it in your handbag. If you see it, you will remember it, and it’s more likely to get read. There is something a little magical about being able to whip out your book and read it at the beach or by a waterfall. And who doesn’t want a little more magic in their lives?
I have hinted at this one already. Choosing a heavy tome and expecting to sit down and read it for an hour is not going to end well. You need to be realistic about what you can get done and what you want to achieve from it. If you are expecting a stellar narration every time you read a novel together, your kids aren’t going to want to do this. If you are reading a book just because you think you should, this isn’t going to happen. If your schedule is jam packed and you are trying to add in an hour of reading aloud every day, you’re going to fall off the bandwagon pretty soon. Be honest about what you can do, and don’t expect too much from yourself and your kids. At least not in the beginning.
This one follows on from the last. If you have never read aloud before, or at least nothing longer than a ‘That’s not my…’ book with your toddler, you probably aren’t going to manage an entire chapter of the Hobbit in one sitting. And neither are your kids! Start with just ten minutes, or perhaps even just a page or two, and slowly build up the time you sit together to read. Reading aloud is a skill that needs to be learnt, so let yourself learn at your own pace.
Remember how I said you need to keep your expectations realistic? Well, let me make it perfectly clear that it is not realistic to expect your kids to keep perfectly still and perfectly quiet while you read. There is definitely going to be a certain amount of fidgeting going on. Or perhaps even hanging upside down on the couch. So long as they are paying attention, don’t sweat it. As adults we tend to assume that a child moving around is a child who isn’t listening, but children often manage to process more when they aren’t concentrating on sitting still. Set some parameters that you are comfortable with and let them be. Lots of children like to keep their hands busy while they listen so laying out paper and crayons is often a good way to go.
Reading books together isn’t just an academic activity, it’s a bonding experience. Chat about the books together. Ask them what their favourite part was, or which character they really didn’t like. What would they do in the heroes place? If yourinner school mum voice is asking you what the value of this is, you can reassure her that this is a great way to gauge and develop comprehension skills 😉
Reading in monotone is boring. It’s boring to do and it’s boring to listen to. Have fun, get silly, launch yourself into character. Try out a few voices, read with emphasis, take dramatic pauses. It may feel forced at first but you will soon get used to it. You don’t need to go overboard, but you do want to make your reading interesting to listen to. If you need a little guidance, try listening to an audio book and mimicking the way the voice actor reads.
Everything else aside, the most important part of reading aloud is to enjoy the time with your little ones. Some of my fondest memories of reading with my children are when they have climbed into bed with me and handed me a novel to read, or snuggled in beside me on the couch. Enjoy the time together, and the rest will eventually sort itself out.
But what if you still don’t like it? It’s ok. No, really it is. Sometimes we just don’t like doing things. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but don’t miss out on all the books and on the quality family time either. Try these tricks instead 😉
- Use audio books
- Have your big kids read aloud to your little ones
- Let dad take a turn
- Try storytelling instead
Reading aloud with our children is a wonderful way to connect with them. It really brings the home into homeschool when you spend your time snuggled together on the couch or lazying about beneath a tree, enjoying a good book together. There are so many benefits to reading aloud. I hope these tips will help you get started today.