If reading aloud isn’t something that comes naturally in your family, these 10 tips will show you how read-aloud family time can be fun AND painless!
By Kirstee Raki | This Whole Home
Reading aloud. It’s one of those things we know as homeschool mums we are supposed to do. Not only that, but homeschool bloggers everywhere would have us believe that we are also supposed to enjoy it. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, especially if reading aloud isn’t something that comes naturally.
I'm a huge fan of the read-aloud, and even I confess to not always finding it easy or *gasp* enjoyable to read to my children. But I do have a few tricks that help make it more fun and a lot easier to accomplish on a daily basis.
Tip 1: Choose a book you actually want to read
It's hard to make yourself read aloud if you just can't stand the book. I flat out refuse to read twaddle to my kids. I don't mind so much if they choose to read it on their own time. Although I encourage them to read widely, I'm not going to torture myself with insipid characters and weak storylines when there are so many amazing books out there!
I once heard someone say that the mark of a true classic children's book is one that you will love reading well into your adult years.
Try choosing a book you loved as a child or one that comes highly recommended by another mama and go from there. If you start a book and you find yourself dreading read-aloud time, ditch the book and choose another one. There are too many wonderful books out there to waste your time on the so-so ones. Your kids can always read it to themselves if they love it.
Tip 2: Choose a book your kids want to hear
It is so frustrating to sit down to read to your children and they just don't want to listen to the story. It can feel like a rejection of you as the parent when they complain or misbehave during what is supposed to be a special time as homeschoolers. Listen up, mama. You're kids aren't rejecting you, they are rejecting the book.
Get smart about your book choices. Books that are too young won't hold their interest, and books that are too far above their comprehension level go in one ear and out the other, leaving the child feeling bored and frustrated at best, stupid at worst.
Choose books just above your child's reading level with subject matter s/he is interested in. You can move towards more difficult books later but before anything else, you want read-aloud time to become a loved activity.
Tip 3: Schedule read-aloud time for the start of the day
There are a hundred and one tasks to do every day, and that's before you've even started lessons. It can be tempting to dismiss reading aloud as something fun but non-essential and then bump it from your to-do list.
Worse still, if you haven't come to enjoy reading aloud yet, you might be deliberately running out of time. Caught you! But seriously, please don't leave this one off the list.
Reading aloud is a fantastic bonding experience, helps to develop a child's love of literature, increases their vocabulary and exposes them to a wider variety of books than they might otherwise choose on their own.
Try making read aloud time first up each day so that it doesn't get missed in the busy-ness of the school day. And if you don't really enjoy it (yet!) well at least you've got it over and done with and can move on to things you like better 😉
Tip 4: Keep your book with you at all times
Just like reading first thing makes sure you get this done, keeping your books handy is a big help too. Leave your current book on the table, in a basket beside the couch, carry it in your handbag. If you see it, you will remember it, and it's more likely to get read. There is something a little magical about being able to whip out your book and read it at the beach or by a waterfall. And who doesn't want a little more magic in their lives?
Tip 5: Have realistic expectations
I have hinted at this one already. Choosing a heavy tome and expecting to sit down and read it for an hour is not going to end well. You need to be realistic about what you can get done and what you want to achieve from it.
If you are expecting a stellar narration every time you read a novel together, your kids aren't going to want to do this. If you are reading a book just because you think you should, this isn't going to happen.
If your schedule is jam-packed and you are trying to add in an hour of reading aloud every day, you're going to fall off the bandwagon pretty soon. Be honest about what you can do, and don't expect too much from yourself and your kids. At least not in the beginning.
Tip 6: Start slow and build up
This one follows on from the last. If you have never read aloud before, or at least nothing longer than a 'That's not my...' book with your toddler, you probably aren't going to manage an entire chapter of the Hobbit in one sitting. And neither are your kids!
Start with just ten minutes, or perhaps even just a page or two, and slowly build up the time you sit together to read. Reading aloud is a skill that needs to be learnt, so let yourself learn at your own pace.
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Tip 7: Let little bodies wriggle around
Remember how I said you need to keep your expectations realistic? Well, let me make it clear that it is not realistic to expect your kids to keep perfectly still and perfectly quiet while you read. There is definitely going to be a certain amount of fidgeting going on. Or perhaps even hanging upside down on the couch. So long as they are paying attention, don't sweat it.
As adults, we tend to assume that a child moving around is a child who isn't listening, but children often manage to process more when they aren't concentrating on sitting still. Set some parameters that you are comfortable with and let them be. Lots of children like to keep their hands busy while they listen so laying out paper and crayons is often a good way to go.
Tip 8: Get chatty
Reading books together isn't just an academic activity, it's a bonding experience. Chat about the books together. Ask them what their favourite part was, or which character they didn't like. What would they do in the hero’s place? If your inner school mum voice is asking you what the value of this is, you can reassure her that this is a great way to gauge and develop comprehension skills 😉
Tip 9: Make it lively
Reading in monotone is boring. It's boring to do and it's boring to listen to. Have fun, get silly, launch yourself into character. Try out a few voices, read with emphasis, take dramatic pauses. It may feel forced at first, but you will soon get used to it. You don't need to go overboard, but you do want to make your reading enjoyable to listen to. If you need a little guidance, try listening to an audio book and mimicking the way the voice actor reads.
Tip 10: But most important of all…
Everything else aside, the most important part of reading aloud is to enjoy the time with your little ones. Some of my fondest memories of reading with my children are when they have climbed into bed with me and handed me a novel to read, or snuggled in beside me on the couch. Enjoy the time together, and the rest will eventually sort itself out.
But what if you still aren’t enjoying reading aloud?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Just head over to This Whole Home to find my tips on what to do when you don’t like reading aloud.
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Kirstee is mum to two from QLD, collector of chickens, a terrible housekeeper, a no-nonsense country-style cook, lover of mason jars, passable vegetable gardener, holistic homeschool educator, to-do list fanatic and bush wanderer. She blogs at thiswholehome.com and shares advice and encouragement on implementing a holistic model of education in your home, as well as practical tips to stay sane as a homeschool mama. Instagram - @this.whole.home