Most of us read aloud to our little ones, but once they are able to read on their own, it’s tempting to leave the reading to the children themselves. No matter the age of our children, reading aloud is still a valuable family activity! Hearing good literature read aloud fosters in children a love for language, builds vocabulary, motivates them to read, and encourages them to use their imagination. According to Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook,
“The Department of Education’s Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (22,000 students) found that beginning kindergarten children who had been read to at least three times a week had a significantly greater phonemic awareness (phonics) than did children who were read to less often, and were almost twice as likely to score in the top 25 percent in reading readiness.”
What Should You Read?
Your read-aloud books can be anything you choose — science, biography, historical fiction, poetry, classics, the Bible, or just fun literature. You can select books related to what your family is studying, or you can just pick something you enjoy reading.
Suggested reading lists can be found in how-to-homeschool books such as The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Mary Pride’s Guide to Getting Started, Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, The Well-Trained Mind, etc. Also, check out homeschool catalogs with reading lists, such as Total Language Plus, Progeny Press, Sonlight, and others. Compact Classics volumes (also known as The Great American Bathroom Books) have two page-synopses of classics to give you an idea of some you might like. E.D. Hirsch’s Dictionary of Cultural Literacy includes a list of some of the cultural classics. And the time-honored Honey for a Child’s Heart and Books Children Love contain lots of suggestions for read-aloud time.
And it’s okay to just have some fun with your read-alouds–we like to laugh our way through Dr. Seuss’s tongue twisters and the Clown-Around family’s silly antics. While we (of course!) want our kiddos to learn from this reading time, we also want them to just enjoy language and the rhythm of reading.
What Does This Look Like?
While you might let the children do some of the reading, this is not the time for in-depth reading lessons—this should be a pleasant time. Some parents incorporate this into morning or evening cuddle time, or afternoon quiet time, or gather-round-the-lunch-table time, so children learn to associate reading with pleasure.
In this season of isolation, one grandfather is reading a chapter a day from an adventure book to his elementary-age grandsons via social media video chat, even holding the book up to the webcam to show the illustrations.
And this is a great opportunity for dads to spend a little time with the children at bedtime or breakfast. When a friend of mine asked each of her five grown children what his or her favorite homeschool activity had been, each one replied that his favorite memory of the homeschooling years was the 20 minutes that their dad had spent each evening, reading to them.
Children have a much higher receptive vocabulary than reading vocabulary, so it’s okay to read books aloud that are well above their reading level, and stop to let them narrate back to you or to dramatize what you’ve read. Leave time for discussion, and enjoy the experience!
A Few More Resources for You
Here are a few more resources for reading aloud:
- “The Importance of Reading Aloud to Big Kids” by Melissa Taylor
- “A Hodgepodge of Favorite Books”
- 1000 Good Books List
- “How to Read a Book” (review of the Adler and Van Doren resource book)
- Book lists for homeschoolers, divided into 5 age groups
- The Struggling Reader includes diagnostic inventories to help pinpoint weaknesses
- Ambleside Online has book lists by grade level
- Read-Aloud Revival book recommendations
- Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt; annotated lists of books from birth to mid-teens
- Read for the Heart (Whole Books for WholeHearted Families) by Sarah Clarkson. The author (a homeschool graduate) reviews hundreds of whole and living books for children 4–14, and includes additional lists of books to help parents choose the best literary food for their growing children’s hearts and minds.
Adapted from a newsletter by the same author, previously published at hslda.org.