In a Literature Based Education the single most important goal for me, as a teacher, is to teach my child to love to read. “Formal”, one-on-one teaching in our home is focused exclusively on teaching the 3-R’s for the first few years. I don’t require anything else from my kids until they can read independently and do basic arithmetic. That is not to say that I we don’t learn anything… we read out loud a lot, do activities together, study history, science, music, art, geography and anything else that strikes our fancy: but I don’t want to overwhelm them and squish the budding love of learning. For these subjects my non-readers are only required to be present. I have learned from experience that they will soak up information just from listening (though I have been known to kick an unruly toddler out of the room until he can behave.)
Emma is just beginning to read independently. Now that she knows HOW to read, my job is to try and show her how wonderful reading is and help her refine her skills. The trick for us is introducing Emma to a variety of books covering a lot of different subjects at reading levels a little below, at, and a little above what she is comfortable with. For starters, she has primarily taken over the responsibility of reading to her little brothers when I am busy with other motherly duties. I have found that several of these books are the perfect level for her to gain confidence in reading out loud. She may need help with a word or two but for the most part picture books are perfect for her. We have too many favorites to count, but some of them are Pingo, Pingo and the Backyard Bully, The Berenstain Bears, Max Lucado’s Children’s books, The Napping House, almost anything by Mike Venezia or Brian Cleary, selected Step into Reading books, and the Sir Cumference series. A variety of picture books will give Emma the perfect combination of easy, just right, and challenging words.
Beyond reading out loud to her brothers I encourage her to read short chapter books on her own. Each day for school I sit the girls down to read from their assigned chapter books. This how I can evaluate how well Emma is progressing. She reads a few pages (or chapters depending on the book) and then tells me all about it. If a chapter is taking too long for her to get through or she gets frustrated, I take that book away and dial it back a notch and give her something a little easier. She tried reading The Courage of Sarah Noble but was having a hard time grasping the story line so we stepped away from it and went in a different direction. She has been much more successful with The Robinson Crusoe Reader. I make full use of The Magic Tree House series and will often choose the book based on the other subjects we are studying at the time. Since Emma has “reading baggage“, she doesn’t love it yet. The trick is to keep it fun.
Several times during the week I will declare a “reading hour” during Henry’s nap time. This functions as “quiet time” for our family. Everyone grabs a book… any book… and has to read (or look at) books quietly for at least an hour. We all sit in the same room (though Lucy is allowed to go somewhere else if she likes) and relax and read. It takes a few minutes to get everyone settled but before long we are all engrossed in our separate books. Even Jack participates :) I take over the love seat in the school room (so I can work on the computer or rest my eyes) and the kids spread out on the floor (this is where our floor cushions come in handy).
These are all merely suggestions for instilling a love of reading in to your children. I am sure there are several other ways and I would love to hear them if you have any! You have to adapt to your children. That being said, If you can only do one thing to foster a love of reading in your children, read to them.
I get it: reading out loud is not fun. It’s not easy to find time. My throat hurts, too. I also stutter. Guess what? They don’t care. Guess what else? You are NEVER too old to be read to. Having independent readers is not a pass to never read to your kids again. Even I, a woman in my thirties loves being read to more than almost anything else (not just audiobook but being read to). I’m going to tell you a secret, when Matt was on call last Sunday, he called me when he was finished with his work and he just read to me over the phone. I put my headset on and did my chores while he read. I loved every second and it gives me something to look forward to when he has to be gone.
I’m going to tell you another secret. Every night after prayers and scriptures we tuck the kids in to bed and Matt reads to all of us. We turn off all of the lights and Matt (sitting with his headlamp and where everyone can hear him) reads a few chapters of a book. The boys usually drop off to sleep within the first few minutes and sometimes Jack likes to jump around before settling down but I can tell you that this is a tradition that each of us cherish. On nights that Matt is gone, I will get the kids all ready with jammies on and teeth brushed, then we call his cell phone and put him on speaker so that he can read to us even when he is not home. When he has a patient and can’t read, I read (or at least I did until we discovered Jack only likes listening to a male voice as he falls asleep, now on those nights Jim Dale reads to us).
Reading as a family every night is something we started just a few months ago and while it took two or three days to get Jack used to the idea (and if I’m being perfectly honest Matt and I were both more than a little reluctant to stop our night-time TV watching routine), it has completely changed our lives. We used to dread the fight with a two year old every night. Honestly we usually lost that fight and ended up with short visitor in our bed by 11pm. Now EVERYONE looks forward to bedtime (not just Mom and Dad) and the girls have even been known to ask to go to bed earlier.
This is an activity that was once common in nearly every household but that has gone away since the advent of the television. It used to be that children would play quietly on the floor while mom sat in the rocking chair and Dad read out loud by the fire. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to spend time together as a family. As Emma so succinctly put it “It’s like Family Home Evening EVERY night!”.