In our home we are huge read aloud fans. We read aloud for more than an hour each day during school, we read aloud in the evenings, we read aloud on weekends and holidays, and we always have an audio story running in the car. Read alouds are like the air we breathe.
It was Andrew Pudewa’s audio, “Nurturing Competent Communicators” that convinced me that we needed to read aloud more. And that reading aloud needed to be a priority and not just a luxury when we had the time. We needed to make time and a lot of it for reading aloud.
This week Sarah Mackenzie, from the blog “Amongst Lovely Things”, shared a conversation she had with Andrew Pudewa about Reading Aloud to Older Kids as a podcast. It was a great refresher and I’m looking forward to her monthly podcast about reading aloud.
Andrew says in his article “One Myth and Two Truths” – “One of the biggest mistakes we make as parents and teachers is to stop reading out loud to our children when they reach the age of reading faster independently. ” Reading aloud is mistakenly thought of as something we do only for our little ones, our non-readers. Our modern, busy world has tricked us into believing this is true. It certainly wasn’t true in the days before tv and radios.
But what of older children who feel they are too old to be read aloud to. Personally, since they are wrong, I agree with Andrew and would say, “Well tough”. Reading aloud is both school time and family time and children don’t get to opt out of either. And in reality, they aren’t saying they don’t ‘enjoy’ the reading aloud or the choice of stories, so you aren’t ‘torturing’ them by continuing even if it does sound like it. They are saying they feel too mature for the activity. It’s that very notion that stopped parents from reading to their older children in the first place. So, in our home, even ‘mature’ children listen to read alouds, not that we’ve had this drama. My boys will stop anything and everything for read aloud time (okay, well perhaps not their allotted Minecraft time on the weekend).
We always have at least three read aloud books on the go. One for Hubby to read aloud, one for me, and one for the car (where we listen to audio stories as a captive audience). The boys also each have a title they are reading aloud to us. Reading aloud is valuable for its skill as well as its content.
Currently I’m reading, “I Marched with Hannibal” to the boys during the school day. It’s quite an old book – from 1960 – but older books are often the best books. There’s something lacking in many modern books – too much dialogue; too much focus on relationship; and a lack of rich vocabulary. These are just some of the things I’ve complained about in regards to modern literature (if I can stretch the term to include the twaddle available in stores nowadays). When we listened to Morris Gleitzman’s “Once” series as an audio, my boys demanded to know when it was written. When I told them, they exclaimed, “We knew it was a new book!” Of course not all new books have let us down.
“I Marched with Hannibal” has taken us two weeks to come close to finishing. Generally, my aim is to finish a novel in a week. I do this by dividing up the chapters to work out how many need to be read each day to achieve our goal. Sometimes we need more than a week and that’s okay too. I set a goal for our reading aloud so that we don’t stagnate and let busy days steal time from our reading aloud. But when a book is good, like this one, we often squeeze in an extra chapter or a few after school or, as in the case of this book, a few chapters on the weekend as we can’t wait until Monday.
Hubby is currently reading the Harry Potter series aloud to the boys. In fact, as I type this, my little men are sprawled around the room listening to Daddy read aloud from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. Hubby reads aloud to them before bed and extra on the weekends. He’s been doing it since the boys were babies.
There’s been a lot of benefits of Hubby reading to the boys. It models to boys that men read. It’s regular time they get to spend with Daddy. It also exposes the boys to different genres. Hubby likes different types of books to myself and, consequently, the boys get exposure to all sorts of genres. And I’m happy that I don’t have to drag myself through books from the fantasy genre. Ick! Definitely not my preference!
People have asked me whether I use a book list from which to select our read alouds. I don’t. I don’t want to be restrained to a list. To select our read alouds I browse Amazon and read lots of reviews in order to make my final choices. I also make a note of books that people recommend and books that just pique my interest. I’m forever in bookstores or browsing online bookstores so I’m fairly familiar with the options available. Yes, it takes a lot of time but to me it’s like the difference between presenting fast food or a well planned nutritious meal for your family. The time I spend selecting is well worth it.
Hubby leaves it to me to select the books he’ll read. Usually I find a series for them to work their way through. That way I can have the books all lined up on the shelf ready for them to read. Last year they worked through “The Roman Mysteries” as Hubby loves all things Ancient Rome and Greece. This year, since there’s the possibility that we may go to Warner Brothers in London, it’s the Harry Potter series.
In the car we always have an audio story running. Most places we drive is at least 30 minutes from home so we work our way through a lot of audio stories in a year. Currently we’re listening to the Narnia series. We just finished the first book, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. It’s not my genre and I struggled but it’s a series that just has to be read to be culturally literate…at least that’s the way I’m going to get through all seven books. The kids thought it was great though. Who knows, perhaps I’ll warm a little more to them by the end.
When we first started listening to audio stories we utilised Librivox. There are lots of older books that have been read and recorded by volunteers. They are all free, which was important to us when we were starting out with audio stories, but to be honest, they were a bit hit and miss in quality. Nowadays we have an Audible subscription, which we absolutely love and make full use of. Yes, it costs us a little every month, but it’s worth every dollar. We also borrow audios from the library when they are available (I always check first) and sometimes I purchase the audios on disc when I can’t find them anywhere else.
When my children leave home to start their own families I hope that reading aloud goes with them. It’s the family culture we have tried to create in our home.
If there’s one thing I can implore that other families do, it’s read aloud. If you already read aloud a lot, read more. If you read aloud a little, stretch yourself to read some more. And if you haven’t started reading aloud yet, there’s no time like the present.