I’ve always been a bookworm. Growing up, going to the library was the highlight of my week. I hid away with my books as soon as we got home, then read my brothers’ and my mother’s. In high school, when my brothers were less interested in the library, I just took books out on their cards. So, it’s one of my life goals to instill a love of reading in my children. Perhaps not quite on the same antisocial bookworm level as their mom, but I want them to know the wonder of getting lost in another world, of recognising parts of themselves in the characters they meet, and the joy of spending time with with familiar friends as they read and re-read and re-read again over the years.
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We go the library every second week. The librarians know us by name. (Are you even a homeschooler if the librarians aren’t your friends?) Angie has stopped looking for books on the picture book shelves, but browses the non-fiction section and reader section instead. She no longer just grabs the first four books she sees before rushing to the playroom. She renews certain books as often as she’s allowed. (Her current interests are rocks and precious stones – and Picasso “because I want to copy some of the pictures”.)
Our Family Readaloud Culture
We have also started to be intentional about our family readaloud culture. We’ve always read bedtime stories to the children, but since starting to homeschool, we read aloud a lot more. Several times a day, most days. I kind of feel like I’d benefit from doing some vocal warmups when I get up in the morning.
Angie is doing year two of Ambleside Online, which involves a lot of reading aloud to her. But I also read a chapter of a story in our Morning Time. We read from two books before bed. We listen to an audio book if we’re in the car for longer than 20 minutes. The girls have to read aloud for school. Angie has readers from the library, and I think she’s almost ready for some simple chapter books, and Emmy has to tell me a story about the pictures in the books. They track their reading on a sticker chart.
Angie has also started reading to her siblings when she feels like it (which brings a lump to my throat and makes me slightly teary). I recently listened to a Readaloud Revival podcast with Andrew Pudewa and he mentioned that each of his children had to read aloud to a younger sibling every day for 15 minutes – and I think that’s brilliant and something I’m going to implement in our family.
So what’s the point of all this reading aloud? I mean, aside from improving my children’s vocabulary, developing literacy and stimulating their imagination?
We share stories, and inside jokes, and often we’re all snuggled together on the couch or bed. I don’t require my kids to sit still and listen. They often draw pictures or play quietly while I read to them – and I’m later blown away by how much they’ve picked up while “not paying attention”. I try my best to do funny character voices, but they really don’t care if I get it right or not. My own reading aloud ability has improved the more I do it, which is an unexpected bonus.
We are going to keep reading aloud together for as long as we all live under one roof. I guess we can just start calling it family bookclub or something if they get to the age where it’s embarrassing to call it readaloud time. But my hope is that this time spent reading aloud together will become so precious to them that they won’t want to end it when it no longer feels “cool”.
Our Current Readalouds
The Green Ember had us hooked from the opening chapter. This is our Morning Time readaloud and the girls usually draw pictures of the characters or scenes they like while I read to them. The chapters are not too long and the story progresses at a fast enough pace to keep them interested. This is the picture Angie has been working on. Recognise anybunny?
We are reading Charlotte’s Web and Five Little Peppers at bedtime. It took us a while to get into Five Little Peppers but the girls are now so invested in the Pepper family that I think they’ll miss them when we finish it. (It took a few weeks for Emmy to realise that the Peppers were people, and not actual peppers.) We’re almost finished both of these, and next on the list are King of the Golden River and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Jacques has been reading through the Roald Dahl collection we bought the kids for Christmas. He has a great BFG voice, and his Grand High Witch voice is a close second. They’re currently on Danny Champion of the World. The girls have added a lot of the BFG’s words into their vocabulary, which makes conversation interesting.
We’re still listening to the Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (the group has just experienced the snow on the mountain). Jacques is itching to finish it because he wants the girls to watch the movie. He’s got a steadily increasing list of all the movie adaptations he wants the girls to see.
Favourite Family Readalouds
I asked my family what their favourite books were. Jacques said he really enjoyed Matilda and the BFG (he never read them as a kid). Emmy said Harry Potter (but didn’t specify which one). Angie, being Angie, couldn’t just answer simply. “I like all the Roald Dahls. And I’m looking forward to the next Harry Potter. And Understood Betsy was nice.”
The girls loved A Christmas Carol, which was something of a surprise to me.
We adore Beatrix Potter, not only for the stories but also for the beautiful illustrations. (Emmy keeps trying to borrow Beatrix Potter books from the library even though we have them at home.)
Dr Seuss gets us all giggling and repeating nonsense words. We’re particularly fond of The Lorax and Mr Brown Can Moo, Can You?
Angie has really enjoyed Understood Betsy (despite describing it as just “nice”) and Heidi, and I can’t wait to introduce her to What Katy Did, which was one of my favourite books as a child. I’m also looking forward to reading Little Women with the girls. I’m interested to see which of the March girls they relate to most. (It’s next on the list after Order of the Phoenix. Yes, we have a list. Perhaps it should be capitalised: The List.)
Rattletrap Car is one of our favourite picture books. It’s kind of silly, but we all love it, and keep looking for mashmallow chocolate fudge delight at the shop. (Why do the shops not sell marshmallow chocolate fudge delight?)
Brave Young Knight is beautifully told and illustrated.
This list wouldn’t be complete without The Chronicles of Narnia.
What are your family’s favourites?