Having homeschooled all five of our kids, I think I speak for the whole family when I say that reading was our favorite part of ‘school’. And no, I don’t mean silent, independent reading. I mean that I read to them – even in high school, long after they had acquired the ability to read for themselves.
At any given time, they’d be sprawled across beanbags and couches listening to the adventures of the latest hero or heroine. Little did I know in those early years just how crucial something as seemingly innocuous as reading aloud to my children would turn out to be. I just enjoyed doing it – maybe even more than they did!
Stories captivate me – being transported to another time, another place, meeting interesting, and sometimes ordinary, characters who face the same struggles you and I do, endure the same crises in their walk with God, and eventually, through much trial and error, press through and obtain victory. Fiction? Maybe. But real life is often stranger than fiction. Just pick up a biography of someone like Rees Howells!
All those years ago as I was reading to my own children, I was unaware of research, if it even existed, pointing out that, “there’s a clear correlation between confidence and ability as an adult, how much the person was read to (out loud) as a child. . .Writing ability in later life is almost always directly connected with how much language has entered the brain through the ear in early life.” (Andrew Pudewa of IEW fame).
“One of the biggest mistakes we make as parents and teachers is to stop reading out loud to our children when they reach the age of reading faster independently. In doing so, not only do we deprive them of the opportunity to hear these all-important reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns, we lose the chance to read to them above their level, stretching and expanding their vocabulary, interests and understanding.” ~ One Myth, Two Truths by Andrew Pudewa
What to read?
Maybe you agree that reading aloud is enjoyable and has long term benefits. However, I can almost hear your plaintive cries, “But what to read??” Aha! I’m SO glad you asked! The choices are nearly limitless, but let me narrow it down to a few favorites for different age groups. Many can be found at the library, on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. Little ones love books like:
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Brown Bear and Friends) by Eric Carle
- Make Way for Ducklings and other books by Robert McCloskey
- Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
- Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- Frances books by Russell Hoban Bedtime for Frances (Trophy Picture Books) (special favorites of our youngest daughter)
Trust me, you will have these books memorized in short order, and your little ones WILL know if you skip pages or words, so don’t even try it! We absolutely adored the ‘Grandma’s Attic’ series by Arleta Richardson. I giggled more over the antics of Arleta as a child at her grandma’s house than my children did. The “Little House on the Prairie” series is wonderful, as is the Chronicles of Narnia. Don’t shy away from more challenging books for the middle school ages, either.
Our favorite book of all time
However, our all-time favorite read-aloud book, one that I later read to my homeschooled English high school classes, is one that although out of print, can still be obtained online, called “Trapped in the Old Cabin” (later changed to “Terror for Three”) by Patricia Kershaw.
Every time I’ve read the book to others, the reaction is always the same, “No, don’t stop now!! Just one more chapter, PLEASE!!!” This in spite of the fact that I’ve often had to explain some things to the younger generations (remember 3” leather watch bands? You don’t? Then obviously you’re part of that younger generation!).
In all the years I’ve been reading, (and we won’t discuss how many that is) I’ve never read a fictional book that is more ‘believable’ or realistic than this one. It’s the story of a young man’s journey of faith, which may sound a bit ho-hum, but the book is anything but ho-hum. When reading aloud, I still have to prepare myself for the last few pages so that I can get through it without my voice breaking or tears starting – in a good way. Pretty sure I’ve never fooled anyone, though. It’s just that good.
Though geared toward the adolescents, I read it the first time as an adult, and read it to my own kids for the first time when 3 of them were in high school. All the classes I’ve read it to were also high school age and it never mattered. They were all riveted. A truly exceptional book will captivate the reader (and listener) and make a lasting impact. Maybe that’s why the Bible has remained one of the most-read books in history!
So, the next time you’re tempted to just hand your child (or pre-teen, or even teen) a book so you can go ‘get something done’, resist the urge, curl up on the nearest couch with the kids sprawled around and dig in to a story worth reading out loud! You won’t regret it, nor will they (okay, it may take them a few years to thank you so just keep Monk’s advice in mind, “You’ll thank me later”).