The Read Aloud: Like Sunshine for the Soul

Or a cool drink on a hot day! Nothing soothes the grumpies at our house like a read aloud. Nothing.

I’ve been a long time advocate of reading aloud to your kids. Not just the bed time kind of reading, but the kind that can start at any time and last for hours. So, I thought it would be a good idea to give some pointers on how to get started with reading aloud or how to make the most of it.

The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is a fantastic book about the benefits of reading aloud to your kids at any age. This book, along with a favorite children’s picture book, is my standard baby gift for new parents. If we travel in the same circles, please don’t steal my idea! Mr. Trelease makes a compelling case for making the effort to read regularly to your kids and it will surely boost your confidence that your effort is well worth it.

I know what some of you are thinking. The read aloud is almost a cliché in the homeschooling world. Some of you are groaning because you simply don’t like it. Aren’t good at it. Or haven’t made the time despite your best intentions.

Many of you probably are avid readers to your kids, but what do you do if you aren’t or if you have tried in the past but have not been successful with it. Maybe your kids don’t act interested. Maybe they are too squirmy. I can tell you I have been known to read to my kids for two hours at a time and if I stop it is most likely protested with kids yelling, “More!”

So, how do you get there? By just picking up a book and reading it to your kids. Enthusiastically and consistently. You can’t lose!

Most kids enjoy sitting on the sofa or lying on a bed while you read. If you have little ones, they might enjoy some extra cuddle time while you read. Fidgety kids can take a spot on the floor rolling cars or playing with another quiet toy. Some of my kids really like to sit and draw while we read.

Know your audience! What book, story,  or plot line would most engage your kids? Do you have a wide age range? You may find you can’t read the same book to the whole family. You might have to split them up and read different books to different kids. Even though toddlers can handle sitting in, it doesn’t mean they can handle more emotionally mature material. Charlotte’s Web is a great read, but it has some more mature themes including death. Make sure your choice will hold the interest of your audience and will be emotionally appropriate for everyone. Tall order? Maybe. So, that’s where the choice to read different books for different kids comes in. No time you say? Mr. Trelease says that parenting was never meant to be a time saving endeavor. I couldn’t agree more.
I think the biggest thing is your attitude and excitement over the tale you want to read. Gather the kids around and just start reading! Think about the best time of day for a read aloud. I like to read the most right after breakfast and right after lunch. The reading settles everyone down and gets them in the right frame of mind for doing school. I also read as I wait for doctors (mine or theirs as long as we are all together), on long car trips, outside on a blanket, outside while they swing or play in the sandbox, at home shows while your husband is busy with contractors (just sit the kids in a bunch and kneel down and start reading where ever he is chatting), or we like to take books along on long walks or hikes so when we rest, we can read. Right now we’ve been reading at night on these early dark winter nights. I get the kids into bed and sit in the hallway with my light on theirs off reading for 45 minutes or more. As I mentioned at the start, it is also a sure fire way to sooth grumpy beans! When everyone is edgy, we stop and read together. It’s like starting over!

So now you might be thinking…what in the world is a good book for reading aloud? The Read Aloud Handbook has a great anthology of book titles to share. Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt is another book that has read aloud recommendations. I also have enjoyed Honey for a Teen’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. Your kids are never too old for a good read aloud!

I thought it would be fun to share some of our all time read aloud favorites with you here. Keep in mind I have both boys and a girl. Don’t be afraid to read a book that seems to girly to a boy (like Little House in the Big Woods) or vice versa (My Side of the Mountain) because you’d be surprised how universal a good book is. There’s plenty of adventure in the Little House series for any boy!

  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • My Side of the Mountain and it’s sequels
  • The Doll People Trilogy
  • Redwall
  • The Indian in the Cupboard and its sequels
  • The Little House series
  • The Hank the Cowdog Series
  • Nim’s Island
  • The Trumpet of the Swan
  • Story of the World
  • Mystery of History
  • Childhood of Famous Americans

Read aloud veterans good for you! Keep up the great work. Those of you who have not tried or have not been consistent I urge you to keep on trying until it works. Often times I will read aloud to a timid reader until he wants to take the book on his own. I get them into the book and then when they are impatient waiting on me to finish, they pick it up for themselves. How’s THAT for clever?? Another great benefit of reading aloud to your children is that when they read to you as emerging readers and beyond, you won’t be bored because they will read to you with the same inflections and tones of enjoyment with which they are read! Truly that is a joy to experience.

Reading aloud to my kids is one of my favorite things to do! We have had many enjoyable hours reading aloud to our children. The more you do it, the more you get used to it and the better at it you become. Likewise, the more you do it the better your kids get at listening and what a profound skill to have! My youngest is 5 and up until now he has only tolerated the chapter books, but these days he is leading the charge for one more chapter!

As much time as I’ve spent here, I’ve really only scratched the surface of the advantages of reading aloud for your family. Reading good books to your children at every age is a wise investment of your time- as a mom and a homeschooler. It reaps benefits far beyond those precious moments so enjoy them!

Heather is a homeschooling mom of four kids ranging from middle school to preschool and wife to a handsome chemical engineer. Before raising a family, she taught middle school science (with a BS in biological sciences) and has a masters degree in curriculum and instruction secondary education. Now teaching at home means the chance to provide the extraordinary for her children. She’s been homeschooling five years and you can read about those adventures on her blog, Blog She Wrote.

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