As a homeschooling family, we read aloud - sometimes several books - each day! Our preferred method of learning is through living books. Liv...

Why We Love Reading Aloud

As a homeschooling family, we read aloud - sometimes several books - each day! Our preferred method of learning is through living books. Living books are basically storybooks about a given topic. They can be fiction with some facts added in, or entirely non-fiction. The main thing is, they are written in a narrative style rather than in textbook format. This format tends to make the topic more interesting for all of us - reading aloud lets my children know that I think it's important and interesting enough to devote my time and attention to. I also find that I personally remember things better when there is a story to go with it. For example, we recently finished a unit study on the African savanna and one of our living books was "Magic Treehouse: Lions at Lunchtime" by Mary Pope Osborne. In the story, we learned that lions will often avoid full grown giraffes because a well-placed kick from a giraffe can kill a lion. It's easy to remember this in the context of the story - the main characters, Jack and Annie, hide beneath a walking giraffe hoping that the nearby lions won't attack them for fear of getting kicked by the giraffe.

In addition, living books provide great inspiration for extension activities. The giraffes were eating acacia leaves and we learned that acacia trees have large thorns and so giraffes have very thick saliva to coat the thorns and keep them from scratching up their insides. So that led to an experiment where we put prickly evergreen branches in a bowl of water and others in a bowl of oobleck (cornstarch and water). The thick oobleck helped coat the branches so we could more easily touch them without getting poked. Living books can spark curiosity and additional learning. "Now that we know lions are afraid of adult giraffes, is there anything else lions are afraid of?" 

So now you see how reading aloud living books helps us learn about our chosen topic of study, but that's not nearly all reading aloud does! Reading aloud is not only beneficial to homeschoolers! Reading aloud is actually most beneficial to children in the first few years of their lives, before most of us even think about schooling options. We've been reading bedtime stories for the past 9 years and will continue doing so until the kids are completely uninterested and just want to read on their own. And anytime I want to learn about a different culture, holiday, or person, I turn to picture books we can read together (that's kind of why I started the Read and Rise Book Club!). 

Here are some more benefits to reading aloud:

- Reading aloud helps build brain and language development, especially in the first few years of life

- Reading aloud builds early literacy skills: vocabulary, words convey meaning, letters form words, we read the book left to right and sentences left to right, comprehension, connections (i.e. I built a sandcastle just like in the story!)

- Reading introduces new words, ideas, concepts, and grows knowledge

- Reading aloud sparks conversations

- Reading aloud helps instill a love of reading and creates a wonderful opportunity for bonding with your children

- Reading aloud supports curiosity, imagination, and creativity

- Re-reading is just as important as reading - I know it can get exhausting to read the same book over and over and over and over, but when children want to repeat activities it means they're still learning from them! So reading the same book 10 times may be more beneficial than reading 10 different books

For children who are not Kindergarten age, I HIGHLY recommend looking into the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. Many libraries have programs where they will give out prizes for completing the program. We were lucky enough to have a library who participated when my daughter was preschool age. They gave out little trinkets (like stickers, erasers, pencils, tiny figures...) for every 25 books read and a free book for every 100 read. Lil C loved going to the library with her book list and picking out prizes. We also completed the program with Squidgy, who was not even 1 when we started it! If the library in the town we moved to did the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program, we would probably be doing it again with Squidgy now that he's old enough to have an idea of what's going on! At this point I'm sure he'd have gotten to 100 books at least 3 times, maybe 4! If your library does not participate, you could always ask if they'd be interested in starting or just do the program at home. If you want to make it a little extra special, you could create your own little treasure box with stickers and erasers and trinkets to give out as prizes for reading and purchase some books to give out as larger prizes. 

For more information about reading aloud and for some fun printables, please visit Read Aloud 15 Minutes.