Reading ‘Aloud’ Is Fundamental
Every year the R.I.F (Reading is Fundamental) program would come to my school and set up thousands of new books on tables in the gymnasium. They would generously let each student pick out not one, but two books. These books were not for borrowing, but for us to keep forever. That thrilled me to no end because I dearly loved reading and loved the look, feel, and smell of a brand new book. I would go home and devour the book in one night. I still have all of those books from those carefree school days. After all, they were treasures to me then and still are. Sweet, simple gifts like that make the best memories.
When we first started our homeschooling journey, I was lucky to read a paper by Carole Joy Seid, a veteran homeschooling mother, on the benefits of not only reading but being read to.
My Daddy read to us often when I was a child and when he wasn’t reading from a book, he would recite a short story or poem from memory. He was a radio broadcaster so his stories always sounded polished and professional because he would use his radio voice
I started the habit of reading aloud to my children when they were very young; sometimes I was bad, though and would skip pages of One Fish Two Fish or The Cat in the Hat because after you’ve read it eight times in one day, your brain turns to mush.
It was when I started reading chapter books aloud that I found myself caught up in the stories and couldn’t wait until the next day to read the next chapter. The best part was, my children were excited too! We have been on voyages to the Fiji Islands with RM Ballentyne in The Coral Island and have sailed Around the World in Eighty Days with Jules Verne. We have gone on adventures with Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey and felt the heartache of losing a loved one in Charlotte’s Web. This past week, we re-read Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker. I read it the first time eight years ago, but my daughter was too young to remember it. I wanted her to experience the beauty and emotions that we felt at the first reading. I was surprised when my 16 year old recalled so many of the important moments from the book. Contrary to what I thought the first time I read it, he WAS listening!
Even though my children are 16, 15 and 12, I still read aloud to them daily. It is a beautiful bond that we share, and I will always treasure. I encourage you to start the trend with your family too!
Developing that passion for reading is crucial, according to Jim Trelease, author of the best-seller, "The Read-Aloud Handbook." "Every time we read to a child, we're sending a 'pleasure' message to the child's brain," he writes in the "Handbook." "You could even call it a commercial, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure."
This reading "commercial" is critical when competition for a child's attention is so fierce. Between television, movies, the Internet, video games and myriad after-school activities, the pleasures of sitting down with a book are often overlooked. In addition, negative experiences with reading - whether frustrations in learning to read or tedious "skill and drill" school assignments - can further turn children off from reading.
That can have long-term consequences. As Mr. Trelease says in his handbook, "Students who read the most, read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don't read much, cannot get better at it."
A few things to keep in mind when picking out chapter books to read aloud. Do not choose the abridged versions. They are watered down and to me they are dumbed down. Read the original! You may have to hunt for them but you can find them. Yard Sales and Library Sales are great places to start. We once found an abridged version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. What a sorry mess it was! The original is filled with such poetic language, it would be a shame for your children to be shortchanged and not hear those beautiful words that Irving penned.
An important note; if you have small children, let them play on the floor with their toy trains, dolls or legos. Don't make them sit still while you are reading to them. They ARE listening, Mama! My boys had a hard time keeping still and I found that even if they were doing flips over the back of the couch, they could dictate back to me the last paragraph that I read. Sitting for long periods of time isn't natural for young children. Don't make them do it while you are reading to them. They and you will enjoy the time better.
Below is a very short list of some of our favorites for Elementary age children. If I listed them all, you would grow weary of reading the list, it is so long!
The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe
Miss Piggle Wiggle
The Boxcar Children
Along Came a Dog
Walk the Worlds Rim
A lion to Guard Us
The Winged Watchman
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Borrowed House
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week!