I don’t like to read, but I like having finished reading. If I have random spare time, I would rather sew, or work on a blog, or bake, or play with photos before I pick up a book. Buuut, I do actually read often and enjoy finishing a book. When it comes to reading with my kids, some books I really enjoy reading aloud, more than I would have expected. Even, or especially the silly picture books, I am loving reading with my kids this summer!
We always sign up for the summer reading program at the library, but this summer I knew in my heart that I wanted more than that for my kids. I needed, wanted, craved something to encourage my readers to branch out into new genres. My oldest could read Harry Potter endlessly, or the Warriors series, all day long. I enjoy HP just as much as the next person, but this girly of mine has a reading and comprehension level of a college student, so she really needs to branch out. Sweet Pea, my 9 yr old, is like me and would rather not read, but once I get her started, she will continue. And my youngest independent reader, Little Man, who is 7, could read Star Wars books all day long, but will happily read anything he finds laying out. He is the surprise-reader, the one I really expected to hate reading. While he isn’t speeding through chapter books yet, he is just about ready for them. Knowing I wanted to break outside their comfort-zones of reading, I wondered how I would do it. Require them to read one book from various categories? Requiring that in summer-time feels too much like a chore…
Then I listened to a podcast with Sarah M and Pam, and heard about Pam’s summer reading program. That night, I printed it all out and shared it with the kids in the morning.
One trip to the library proved to me that this was not going to be easy, at least not if I expected my 7, 9, and 10 year olds to choose books on their own. I started pulling cookbooks, biographies, crafting books, poetry, and classics off the shelves. I also realized that unless I sat down during our quiet time, or read at lunch, that some of these new books weren’t going to be looked at. So, I am reading many of them aloud, even the easy picture books. Especially the easy picture books. Some books are meant to be shared and read aloud! Just tonight we read “The Story of Babar”, laughed together, enjoyed the illustrations, and even chatted about where the author found his inspiration. It took 15 minutes, maybe. But that time maybe was my favorite 15 minutes of the day. All 5 kids crowded around, giggling at the pictures and the silliness of the talking, walking, well-dressed elephant.
We have also laughed together about “I Want My Hat Back” and just started a new series by Lisa Hendey, “The Chime Travelers”. “The Hobbit” is still on our list, as well. We all enjoy it quite a bit, but it can take a long time to get through as a read aloud! We stop to talk about the scenes, guess what happens next, and sometimes watch clips from the movie.
Why is reading aloud working? It brings us together for anywhere between 5-30 minutes, for calm and rest time. We share and enjoy a story together. (Or, sometimes, we don’t enjoy it, talk about why, and choose something new.) When I read aloud, the younger kids have their vocabulary broadened without having to stumble over new and tricky words. They all can use their imagination to picture the story while I read. For my strong readers, our read-aloud time introduces them to books they wouldn’t choose on their own, or, as with “The Hobbit”, brings stories to life that are also outside their reading level.
My favorite read-alouds are saint stories, poems, long chapter books, quality picture books, and biographies or historical fiction. Each of these are great conversation starters, poetry is typically best read aloud, pictures are beautiful when enjoyed together. Most of all, this is special time together which is part of our family culture.
Next up on my list (I admit our read alouds do change, though, based on interest or what is available!) are two books recommended in the Read Aloud Revival Podcast: “The Green Ember” and “The Prairie Thief”. I just started listening to the podcast this summer, but it has quickly become my favorite! It was on this podcast that I learned about the reading program on Pam’s site, and in this podcast that I keep being encouraged to make time, even the 5 minutes!, to read with my children.