At the beginning of the week we looked at 3 reasons to read aloud, next we considered 8 different types of stories we should consider adding to our household and today we tackle myths that keep us from reading aloud.
Myth #1: I need to set aside a lot of time to read aloud.
Truth: You need 10 to 15 minutes a day.
I highly recommend, especially for young children, to read at most 15 minutes at a time. I think we picture reading marathons and figure we don't have time for that. Save that for winter break. For the everyday habit you need only 15 minutes (even 10 is worth it). At 15 minutes a day you read for over an hour and a half aloud a week. That adds up.
Myth #2: We should read one thing at a time.
Truth: Vary what you read. Try a loop schedule.
With young children most of what they learn comes through conversation or what is read to them. We need to vary the type of stories and information they are exposed to. Sometimes, we feel that they can probably only follow one story line at a time - you would be surprised at how well they will follow an engaging story. For many of the types of genres for this younger age group they can be read in one or two sittings. As an adult, you probably vary your reading - an easy, medium and challenging read. Others choose topic areas: personal growth, literature, hobby, spiritual. You see, we read different things for different reasons. Kids should hear a variety of authors and types of stories and poems.
One way to help yourself with this is to develop a loop schedule for your reading. Basically, choose your books and create an order: Fairy Tale, Nature Tale, Math/Science and Poems. You can choose to do these on specific days (Monday - Fairy Tale, etc.); however, if Monday gets crazy you feel badly. With a loop schedule you just read what comes around next. Who cares if it just happens four times a week - it is much better than NEVER! Here is my sample loop topics for the coming year. I plan to put all of these books in a basket and pull them out (probably at lunch or dinner) and read what is next on the loop.
I don't put our literature books in the loop because I tend to read them at a different time (a different 15 minutes) and will read a few chapters a week (typically 3 or 4). Add what you like. Do you want your kids to look at more DK books and other non fiction with you- add it in your loop and basket and you are set.
Myth #3: We have to read everything right now.
Truth: Your children will be under your roof for a long time, pace yourself.
On the flip side, please do not burn yourself out trying to read "all the right books" and covering everything out there. We are used to school where you are only in a certain grade or with certain teachers for a short amount of time (yes, even 9 months is short). We feel the pressure to "get everything in". However, they will be with you for the long term so SLOW DOWN and remember that what you don't read this fall can be moved to the spring or even removed.
Develop a system (if you have one I'd love to hear about it) for marking books that you hear about and want to read in the future. Right now I try to do this in the wishlist at our library and on Amazon. I think I need to improve my system though!
Myth #4: Bed time is THE right time to read aloud.
Truth: Whatever fits your family schedule is the right time to read.
Technically, there might be some benefits from reading before bed. Again, if the choice is don't read or read another time - choose read another time.
Morning - In high school I had a friend whose family had strict morning devotionals - the whole family was up at 5:30 to accomplish this family time. SAY WHAT!? However, could you read for 10 minutes while people eat their breakfast?
There is also an idea out there called "morning time" or "morning basket". Basically, if you want to include Scripture reading, prayer, and some other literature (maybe a story from your loop) this would be a great way to do it. It's a way to start your morning establishing what is most important to your family culture. There are TONS of ideas about this topic BUT I hesitate to even link you because it can get overwhelming VERY quickly. So, before you click you have to promise me to think about what will most enrich your children and your family culture. The idea of a morning basket (or whenever during they day you do it) is to do things in small bits - 5 or 10 minutes - then move on. A bit of exposure over a LONG time adds up to deep learning. Big time-intensive projects have a place - but it is often these little layers over time that make the biggest impression.
Snack Time - What about making a snack time habit of reading together. Fix a fun snack for when they get home and share a good story. The idea of "poetry tea time" might give you more thoughts about making this a fun thing (or it might stress you out!).
After Dinner - Maybe it works for your family to linger around the table and enjoy each other's company - why not add a story (maybe with some dessert).
Before Bed - Of course, there is the classic pre-bed read aloud. If it works for your family - why change it?
Honestly, if you just chose 2 or 3 of those time and did a ten minute set - that would be 20 to 30 minutes a day! In a week that is over 3 1/2 hours!! If you can make it into a habit and use stories that kids really look forward to - what a great family memory.
Myth #5: We need to be sitting quietly and focusing to make it "count".
Truth: Kids listen better when their hands are busy.
Have you noticed that in old timey books they are always knitting or whittling or something. Yes, they needed to get work done but it also helps the mind focus to keep the body busy. So, as long as you can tell they are listening let them play quietly or eat (that's what I choose). There is some advantage to encouraging beginning readers to cuddle with you sometimes so that they can see the words as you read them - but this doesn't have to happen with every book.
Myth #6: I am not good at reading aloud.
Truth: You are better than you think.
If you start reading aloud while your kids are younger, when they don't care as much about voices and characters, you will have lots of grace as you practice. The more you read aloud the better you get at it. They don't need you to have a perfect accent to enjoy the story. In addition to practice, listening to books on tape and hearing how others do it can help you as well. One of my favorites to read aloud are the Piggie and Elephant books - they show you just how versatile words can be. It's not about your great reading ability - it is about enjoying time, story and life with your kiddos.
Myth #7: I have to be the one who actually reads aloud.
Truth: Use recorded stories to your advantage.
There is something special about you reading aloud with your children, but lets be honest we can't do it all the time. So, what to do? Redeem other times in your day.
Do you drive to school, practice or other places? Listen in the car.
Do you work together in the kitchen getting dinner ready? Play something while you set the table,
Can't quite imagine yourself reading in the morning but know it would help calm your crew? Listen instead.
I like the way Simply Convivial talks about listening at her house. Do you see how each reading is short but she stacks them? This is what I am trying to figure out how to do well in the car - currently I just juggle this in my 6 CD player in my car (I used to think this was excessive - but now I find it essential). If you have tips about how to do this in a car without an MP3 port I am ALL EARS!
Here are some of my favorite FREE resources for read alouds:
Librivox - All of these stories are before 1923. The readers vary drastically so you have to check before you download. If you want to see librivox recordings used at Ambleside online this is a quick reference.
Barefoot Books - They have a podcast featuring quite a few stories - some you'll recognize and some are new stories. Most are between 7 and 15 minutes.
You can buy or borrow these CDs:
Jim Weiss - He has recorded all types of stories at a variety of levels. We check them out frequently from our library (scroll to the bottom to see the recordings for youngest children).
Rabbit Ears - Great stories read by actors. We check these out frequently from the library. You can also download them on your MP3 or get CDs.
I know there are MANY more. Share your favorites.
Myth #8: We have to read things quickly so that we don't forget what is happening and can get in lots of variety.
Truth: Slow reading encourages children to think more about what they are reading.
I admit that I used to devour books. Granted, I didn't read much "great literature" when I was young, but what I did read, I read fast. Often, when I encountered more complicated books it was on a tight schedule because it was a college course. For some reason, we see fast reading as a badge of honor. However, slow reading allows us to savor, ponder, predict, consider and ultimately remember and be changed by what we are reading. Not all books deserve to be read slowly - but some are worth it. Reading a chapter a week might not sound like enough, but it might be just right to encourage a child to make the story their own through play, discussion, comparison and "the wait" to find out what happens next. What stories are you savoring at your house? Try the "slow reading" challenge below.
Hopefully, you found a few ideas that can help you vary what you read aloud, slow down and enjoy the process and pick a rhythm that fits for your family.
The final subject we'll tackle this week is discussing books at home.