Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Reading aloud to older children

When we started home educating, almost 18 months ago, I started reading aloud. Of course, I had read aloud to babies, toddlers and early readers, and still do, but with the busyness of life and homework and after school activities reading aloud to school aged children disappeared. They read to me the school's allocated 10 minutes a day, "Could you try to use a bit more expression", but I stopped reading aloud to them.

We took our, then, 8 year old out of school and started a steep learning curve. I wasn't sure that reading aloud was a proper use of time but thought I would give it a go with the aims to reading just above ds's reading level or to encourage him to read other books.

Reading aloud has been a success although like most such things providing hard evidence is difficult. After all, performing a randomised controlled trial of reading aloud would be impossible and probably unethical.

My guess, from my own observations, is that ds has benefitted in terms of vocabulary and general knowledge although I have been less successful in persuading him to read the read aloud books on his own. The books that I read seem to be set apart as "reading aloud" books.
I will list some books that have worked well. Books to avoid-I can't read funny books well, I laugh too much. I've refused to read "The family from One End Street" for this reason so ds has to read this himself.

We often link the reading into our history or geography so when we were learning about North America, we read "Farmer Boy".

To my surprise, ds wanted me to go on to read the rest of the series, despite the fact that they are about girls so we've read the whole series which lasted rather longer than our study of North America.

We did take a break from the "Little House" series when we studied South America to read "Journey to the River Sea" which is an exciting story with evocative descriptions of the Amazon.

When we eventually finished the "Little House" series, we were studying the Tudors and the Netherlands so combined the two by reading about the Rise of the House of Orange and the Dutch wars against the Spanish.

During the holiday, I read part of "Ned" aloud. This doesn't fit into our current projects but ds loved "Ned" which is a fictional story about a Barnado boy.

I've written recently about our current history readaloud, "Lord of the Forest" so won't re-iterate here.
In addition, we are finishing "The horse and his boy".

Next, I'm not completely sure but probably some GA Henty to fit in with our history project for the next half term, the Stewarts.


  1. Other than when I've taken family worship/devotions I have never read aloud to my children. The older children learned to read very young, and although I listened (and still do) to children reading every day, I never read to them.

    I never liked being read to as a child, the reader always went too slow for me. And none of my children are the "please read me a story" type, they prefer to read it themselves.

    We have used audio books with some children, which is kind of a substitute for mom reading, and sometimes children will read together, the stronger reader helping the weaker reader.

    But no bedtime stories here :-) J. does read them bible stories on Sundays; I get them to read to me.

    I guess that makes me a fairly unusual home ed mom. Takes all sorts . .

  2. I remember, being in school, with the class slowly and painfully reading Unstead's histories. If I was careful, I could read several chapters ahead and find the right place while the child before me read.
    Reading aloud is something I enjoy unless a book is poorly written-I have "lost" some books for that reason!

  3. Great post, Sarah. If your kids like to hear you, it could be a lovely thing for you all.
    I have always enjoyed reading books, even from a very young age.
    I was public-schooled (I guess you call it "state-schooled", here) and I enjoyed very much when my mum would read out loud to us. I was probably about fourteen or sixteen when I no longer wanted to listen as much. I think, for me, it was a lovely time spent bonding with her and my two sisters. She usually read Christian novels (which I wouldn't ready anymore, of course) and non-fiction works to us. We read much on our own, but it was also nice to have that time. They weren't really 'bedtime' stories, though. We'd sit around in one room together and she'd read.
    Perhaps it just depends on the personality of the family. I can't say it made us ultimately closer, though.

    I like reading books to my kids, but I have to say that I draw the line at reading to babies (under 1 year). Neither am I impressed with the uber-simplistic baby books, nor am I very good at 'baby talk'. I am no expert, but I suspect that reading to a baby doesn't make a big difference to their interest in reading in the long-run. Did you read to your babies? Do you think it makes a difference? If you do, then I might rethink my opinion on the matter.

  4. Sorry, I know you read to babies, but what I meant to ask is if you think it made a difference in the elders' interest.

  5. Reading to babies-I don't know the evidence. I have looked for educational evidence on various things and have struggled to find anything very convincing. I'm sure there must be good sites out there but don't know-if anyone can direct me I would be grateful!
    In my experience, it helps especially with wriggly little boys mainly because it helps them learn to sit still and look at something. This seems to start to pay off in the second year. I don't read anything that annoys me-stupid/facile stuff. Even with books for little ones some are much better than others. I found some with black and white pictures which are well presented and not too facile.
    Just my personal view!

  6. We read together each day. I read and my 15yr old and 13yr old daughters and my 7yr old son listen. We love it. I agree that the reading has to be done well, or it becomes a drudge, but hopefully I do it well. They all love the time anyway. Partly it's just a 'nice' time to snuggle up and read together.
    Like H above, we were never bed-time story type folks, but we're enjoying this - for the time being anyway. I wont insist on it if the kids become bored with it.
    Love, Anne x