Day 2: Reading {10 Days of Language Arts}

by Jimmie Lanley on November 8, 2011

Welcome to Day 2 of my 10 Days of Language Arts series. Today I want to share my thoughts, tips, and links about reading.

Love of Reading

Most homeschool parents want their children to love books and to love reading. There is a good reason for this. Reading forms the basis for all other learning. If you can read well, you can learn most anything. Children who read often have better language skills overall — vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and writing — simply because they are repeatedly exposed to good language patterns which they internalize and eventually master.

But Christian parents have an even more important reason to foster a love of reading. God chose to reveal himself in the written word, the Bible. Therefore, we have a great obligation to teach our children to read well so that they may be students of God’s word. (For more on the importance of books, I recommend the book Lit!.)

Reading How Ben Franklin Stole the LIghtning

Enjoying a Living Science Book

Reading Outloud to Children

Exposing our children to quality books is a strong positive factor in their language development. So read to them often. Read living picture books, living wordless books, and living novels. I recommend that moms and dads keep on reading to children long after they are independent readers.

For one thing, reading together is family bonding time. But from an academic standpoint, children can understand and enjoy books that are more difficult than their reading level when those books are read aloud. By reading aloud, you can expose your children to great books that they are not ready to read by themselves. Furthermore, you are right there to work through emotionally intense sections, discuss character issues, and correct wrong worldviews in the books you read.

Audio Books

We have loved adding audio books to our repertoire. It means that we can “read” more books in the day because we can listen as we do other tasks — riding, crafting, or chores.

You may question if audio books “count.” Certainly listening to a book  is different from visually reading a book. But yes, they count! By listening to an audio book,

  • you have still enjoyed the book, enlisting your imagination to help you see the characters and setting;
  • you have still used comprehension skills as you predict outcomes and identify cause and effect;
  • you have still been exposed to vocabulary, figurative expressions, and complex grammatical structures.

The downside is that you didn’t see the words. So your child’s spelling is not going to be improved by listening to audio books as it might from repeated visual exposure.

Our favorite source for free audio books (besides the public library) is Librivox.

reading poem

Reading a Poem

Book Reports

Although you don’t have to require book reports from your children, it is good to occasionally write about the books they read. That type of writing sets the stage for literary analysis later in high school. (By the way, during this series I’ll devote an entire post to literature in which I talk about literary elements such as theme, plot, character, and setting.)

For book reports, you can use a one page form such as the free book report notebooking page over at The Notebooking Fairy. Or you can allow more creative expressions:

But if book reports are not your cup of tea, don’t feel guilt about not assigning the traditional book report for each six or nine week grading period. A couple over the course of an academic year are sufficient as long as a child is talking about the books with you orally. For voracious readers, you may not even want to hear about every single book. But for books that are tied to your curriculum, ask your child periodically to update you on the events. Check for understanding and take advantage of conversation starters that arise. Then when the book is complete, ask for some evaluation of the novel. This kind of informal oral book report is adequate for the majority of books that students read.
reading response prompts minioffice right side

Reading Journal Prompts

Reading Journals

Some children benefit from reading journals. The idea is to jot down questions, predictions, vocabulary words, etc as you read a book. Later, the journal can become the source for writing a book report or literary analysis. Some journals may have leading questions or starter sentences to help readers know where to begin in their journals. I made Sprite a reading journal mini office several years ago to help her with things to say about what she was reading. I’ve also made her lots of booklets to store inside her novels. The Notebooking Fairy has one that is specifically designed for use with biographies — a free printable biography reading journal booklet.

Reading Non-Fiction

It is essential that you encourage your children to read non-fiction and learn how to gather information from non-fiction texts. College and real-life reading tasks mostly fall into this category, so it is intensely practical.

Provide your children with plenty of engaging, non-fiction books:

  • biographies
  • reference books
  • history and science encyclopedias
  • how-to manuals
  • field guides
Whenever possible, encourage your children to reference non-fiction books to answer their questions instead of merely “Googling” it. Searching for answers online is not a bad solution, but it is a shame when people do not know how to look for information in a book or do not want to take the time to do so.


Reading is like so many other things. Children need lots of practice to get good at it. So surround your children with living books and model a reading lifestyle before them. Please share your tips on teaching reading in a comment below.



{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristy @ Almost On Purpose November 8, 2011 at 9:24 am

I must say that I’m loving this series! I am an English major and look forward to sharing my love of the written word with my boys (4 and 6). I’ve just started reading more than just picture books to them and asking questions. Thank you for the tips for helping guide them, as they listen and are learning to read.


Rebecca November 8, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Jimmie, Thank you so much for this series! This is definitely an area I have wanted to make changes in…esp as I dive into Leadership…..thank you!!!!


Amanda November 8, 2011 at 4:44 pm

My daughter is only 22 1/2 months old, but I have had your blog button on my blog for months. There is SO much great, homeschooling info here! Thank You!!


Janie November 8, 2011 at 6:05 pm

You mentioned doing literary analysis in high school, but in our school system book reports stop in 5th grade and literary analysis begins in 6th grade. Analysis vs. retelling during middle school is part of the common core national standards endorsed by NCTE and the IRA.


Jimmie November 9, 2011 at 9:25 am

“In our school system”
“national standards”

Yes, this is one of the great benefits of homeschooling. We can make our own time tables and do things when our children are developmentally ready for them.

Book reports should naturally develop into literary analysis. In fact, they really are literary analysis at an age appropriate level.


Amber November 9, 2011 at 7:48 am

I am so grateful my daughter is a big reader. 🙂


Nadene November 9, 2011 at 10:23 am

Thanks for all the great advice and reading links. My youngest has taken the longest to emerge as an independent reader, but I have savored the spending this time with her. My eldest is nearly 17 and still comes to listen when I read to my middle-schoolers. So reading and reading aloud are very important and enjoyable moments in our days. In fact, it is the glue that holds our homeschooling together


Brandy aka Lil' Momma November 9, 2011 at 6:28 pm

What a great series. We love books in our house. Audio books are a big favorite. We are just now getting around to the book reports. But my son can tell you all kinds of details about any book he hears. We love to use Homeschool to find great books to read. I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

Lil’ Momma
Living with a hard working husband, 1 toddler, 1 preschooler and 1 middle schooler who are Five in Training for HIM


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