How To Approach Reading in Your Homeschool

Reading is the most important part of an education.  When you can read, and read well, the whole world  of knowledge opens up to you.  Kids that can’t read well begin to suffer in other school subjects, so reading should be a top priority.  Set aside special times of the day for reading.  You might read first thing in the morning, right after lunch, just before bedtime, or all three!  You will likely also read during other studies, but make sure you set aside time for the just-for-fun reading too.  Our reading instruction has four parts – teaching kids to read when they’re young, having them read independently, our book basket, and reading aloud.

Teaching Your Young Child To Read

Teaching kids to read varies a lot from kid to kid.  My oldest son had to learn very methodically and repetitvely.  It took him a long time and a lot of consistent practice.  My daughter, on the other hand, started reading before I even taught her all her ABCs.  Most kids will do best with daily practice and a phonics program to begin with.

Here’s the natural progression of teaching reading skills –

  • Letter names and sounds
  • Vowel sounds (long and short)
  • Blends
  • Syllables
  • Sight words
  • Word reading rules

It’s also important to talk about what you’re reading, ask questions, discuss things together, ask kids to make predictions, and make connections with characters.  Talking about reading is what will create good comprehension skills.

Visit this link to see a more detailed look at teaching kids to read, and go here if you want to see our favorite homeschool curriculum choices, including our top picks for teaching kids to read (You’ll find it under the 3 R’s section).

Independent Reading & Book Projects

Once a kid can read on their own, they should.  This doesn’t mean Mom and Dad should stop reading to them, but they should also have opportunities to read on their own.  A lot of confidence comes from doing things on our own.

Make sure to have books your kids can feel confident with, even if it means making your own simple readers for them.  When my kids first begin to read independently, they read a book to me several times until they can confidently read the words, then we put the book in a bin reserved for books they can read on their own.  As they master more and more books, the bin fills up.

It isn’t long before the book bin is outgrown and they can pick up all sorts of books and read them confidently.

Book Bags & Library Outings

At the beginning of the year, give each of your kids a little book bag.  This serves as “a required reading list” for the year that doesn’t feel like a requirement; it feels like a gift!  Put a cute bookmark inside the bag.  Use a hole punch to make a hole in the corner of their library card (don’t punch through the UPC symbol or their name!) and attach that to the bag’s handle with a key ring.  Now put several books inside that are just right for them to read all by themselves. This might be little readers and Dr. Seuss for young kids, Charlotte’s Web and Little House on the Prarie for kids who are ready for chapter books, and Harry Potter or Pride and Prejudice for your bigger kids.  If you want to, you can individually wrap the books like little presents so your kids can unwrap them to discover what they get to read next.  When it’s time to read, the kids can pull out their book bag.

After my kids finish the books in their bags, they take them out and add them to our normal bookshelves, then their bag gets to go to the library where they have lots more books to choose from.  We go on library outings weekly.  I steer my kids to great books by telling them how much I loved certain stories or giving them teasers, but I also don’t REQUIRE my kids to read certain books from the library.  I let them choose all sorts of books, and they end up reading mostly great books and a few less-than-great ones.  That’s okay; I do that too.  We aren’t all going to read classics all the time!

Book Projects

I also have my kids do book projects a few times a month as they finish books.  Book projects are kinds of like book reports, except they are more interactive and hands-on.  We always say they are book reports minus the boring.  You can find out more about book projects and get a big list  of ideas for great book projects right here.

Our Book Basket

Our book basket is also full of library books that I choose.  Each week I request books from our library and they are ready and waiting for me when we arrive.

The book basket gets filled with books about things we are learning about in our Layers of Learning units.  They are historical fiction, science books, biographies, art books, and books about interesting places in the world.  Our book basket sits out so there’s always a great book to read right on hand.   We read some of these together during the school day, but my kids also pick them up and read a lot on their own too.  I always read to them from the book basket while they are working on Layers of Learning projects.  Many kids learn well while keeping their hands busy, so there’s lots of learning happening while they are making a project AND being read to about our history, geography, science, or art lesson.  Imagine painting a Van Gogh style masterpiece while reading a biography about Van Gogh or making a map of the Greek world while reading the popular Greek myths.

Each Layers of Learning book has a library list at the front that will guide you to great books about each of the subjects to check out from your library. They have little colored smiley faces next to them that show the age level the books work well with.

As my kids get older, they read more and more of the books from the basket on their own too.

Reading Aloud

We’ve read aloud to our children since they were born – first board books, then picture books, and finally novels.  I didn’t do this because I was convinced of the educational value of reading aloud or because I had read studies on the impact of reading on education.  I did it because my mom read to my siblings and me when we were kids.  The memories I have of her reading a novel to us on hot summer afternoons while we all lay around the living room right after lunch or huddled under a tarp during one of our many rainy campouts will remain with me fondly forever. I wanted my kids to experience books in that way.

Why you should read aloud to your children

She read Summer of the Monkeys, My Side of the Mountain, Little House on the Prairie, A Cricket in Times Square and dozens and dozens of other novels.

That is how my love affair with books began.  I realized that books that were entertaining and I wanted to read more of them.  Simple as that.

Why Reading Aloud is Important

Kids who are read to have an enormous advantage over kids who are not.  Reading aloud to a child teaches them that there is pleasure and reward in books.  The stories and information are interesting.  Kids want to hear more. They begin to understand that books are for entertainment as well as information.  Reading is how large vocabularies are nurtured, not through flash cards or workbooks.  Kids who are read to feel much more motivated to learn to read on their own because they have already experienced the pleasure of a book.

Most importantly though books should be associated with the voice, time, attention, and physical touch of a loving parent.  Kids crave affection.  Sharing a book together is an intimate experience.  The child nestles against the parent and they share ideas as well as space and time.

How To Read Aloud To Your Child

You can start reading to your kids from birth.  You can also start reading to them now, whatever age they are.  It is never too late to share stories and create traditions of literacy in your family.  I read picture books and chapter books to all of my children, right up to my 18 year old.  My husband even listens in.

We read as a whole family each evening before everyone is sent to bed.  We start with a few story books and then pick up the novel we’re reading at the time. They are usually from the junior fiction category, but sometimes we read adult or young adult novels.  During school I read a different novel to the four younger kids (1st grade through 8th grade) for half an hour in the middle of the school day while they practice drawing skills with “how-to-draw” books.

Keeping younger kids occupied while you read aloud to them will greatly increase their attention spans. Play dough, Legos, drawing, or similar activities that occupy the hands, but not the mind are perfect companions to read aloud times.

What To Read Aloud

Here are some great reasons why you should read aloud to your kids along with the how and what to read.A great read aloud book has lots of action and gets right into the story from the beginning.  Especially for younger kids or kids who are being read to for the first time, books with long descriptions are difficult and off putting.  If you want to read a book with some of these long descriptions you can read ahead and mark the boring parts, so as to skip them, in the great tradition of the Princess Bride.

Here are some great novels to read aloud to your children.

  • My Side of the Mountain
  • Summer of the Monkeys
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • Harry Potter Series
  • Little House on the Prairie Series
  • Ranger’s Apprentice Series
  • The Black Cauldron
  • Black Beauty
  • Tuesdays at the Castle
  • Stuart Little
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • The Trumpet of the Swan
  • Tucket Series
  • A Cricket in Times Square
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • The Secret Garden
  • Five Children and It
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • The Hobbit
  • The Black Stallion
  • Rabbit Hill
  • Penderwick Series
  • Princess Bride
  • Redwall Series

Do you have more great read aloud selections or stories of reading aloud in your family?  Add them to the comments, below!

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