One of the things I’m enjoying most about homeschooling right now is the time the kids and I spend together reading. Sometimes we relax on the couches in the living room while I read to them and other times it’s at the kitchen table or while they are in their desks in the homeschool room.
Last week, I made little tea sandwiches and I read at the table while they ate their sandwiches and sipped tea. I’ve found that the best way to make these read aloud sessions successful is to allow the kids to do other things quietly while I read.
My girls often knit, crochet or colour while I read and the boys usually colour or play with Lego. These quiet activities allow them to still listen to the story without getting restless.
Some people believe that reading aloud to their kids ends when their child starts reading on their own, but reading to my older kids has been a wonderful way to learn together, spend time together, facilitate discussions, and introduce them to some of my favourite childhood books. Reading to older children strengthens bonds, increases curiosity, improves communication, and creates a lifelong love of learning.
Tips for reading to older children:
- Let them have some say in the books you read. You may have an agenda for what books you want read in a month or a year, but allowing your child to have some input as to the order you read them in or to choose an additional book to add to the list will help them to feel involved and be more attentive.
- Use the books as conversation starters. Reading aloud is a wonderful way to bridge discussions on topics that you may not know how to bring up. As kids get older, you can choose material that leads into conversations about relationships, choices, religion, intimacy, addictions, abuse, and other relevant subjects.
- Allow the books to lead to other learning. If my kids have questions about something in a book we are reading, I will often set the book down and we will go to the computer and research the answer together. This helps bring alive what we are reading. Two recent examples: In Secrets in the Woods, we were immersed in a chapter about kingfishers, but the kids had never seen one and wondered what they looked like. Once we had seen several pictures of the birds online, they were much more engaged in the story. In The Saturdays, there was a reference to a painting done in the 1800s. We were not able to find such a painting or the artist, but it led to a lively debate about whether the painting was fictitious or not.
- Ensure that the reading time is a positive one. If you are demanding that your child sit up straight, pay perfect attention, not ask questions, and do long reports on each book read, your child is not likely to look forward to your reading time. If you are relaxed and the experience is positive, it will only further your child’s interest in books. Though we often read chapter books, we also read a few short picture books every week
- Create a relaxing environment. Sit under a tree on a blanket on a warm day, cuddle up in bed under the covers, pile on the couch, sip tea and eat scones, let your kids play quietly. When the weather is nice, we often read on the trampoline outside. I let them bring blankets and we all pile on and relax while we read. They also like sitting on the bean bag chair in the homeschool room while I read. I often let the kids quietly flip through picture books, draw, colour, or play with Lego while I read to them. This helps them to relax further.
- Use audio books some of the time. Audio books are a nice change. Once your kids are used to listening, they will enjoy the odd audio book and you will enjoy the break for your vocal cords! When you find a well done audio book, the listener is truly transported into the story. If they get used to being read to aloud, they will have more of an attention span for audiobooks which comes in especially handy on long road trips. We’ve listened to many good ones. The Ramona Quimby audio collection is great. So is The Silver Chair, the BBC version of the Wind in the Willows and so many others.
- Let them see your enthusiasm! Choose books that you love. Talk about the magic of being swept away to a distant land or time in history. Let your love of books shine through. It’s contagious!
Bonus tip: Once in awhile, throw in a book that has a movie version or one that will soon be coming to the theatre or even one that a high school in your community is doing a live play version of. Watching the movie or going to see the play after you have finished watching the book is a great treat and it allows for further discussions on ways that the book differed from the movie or performance. We are reading The Jungle Book right now with plans to make a special day of going to see the new Disney movie when it opens in theatres in the Spring.
I also often plan an entire unit around a book including crafts, food, activities and sometimes, even a field trip. Here are some of the book activities that we have done:
The read-alouds we’ve used lately:
If you are looking for fun or interesting activities to accompany your books, you may want to follow my Book Activities board on Pinterest.