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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
- reference books
- history and science encyclopedias
- how-to manuals
- field guides
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.