Monday, September 19, 2016

When should I stop reading aloud to my children?

Rebecca Berg Manor

Although the question is always framed a bit differently, we often encounter some form of the above question. "If my student is reading independently, can she do this curriculum on her own?" "At what point should my son start reading these books on his own?" "Is this curriculum supposed to be read aloud even in junior high/high school?" It's easy to understand why parents ask this. Often they're teaching multiple children, and/or balancing a job, running after toddlers, fulfilling social responsibilities, and much more. Reading aloud is time consuming and many home school parents look forward to the time when their youngsters are able to read independently.

We have found that the value gained by reading aloud does not cease when a student becomes an independent reader. In fact, we believe, along with Doug Lemov, author of Teach like a Champion and co-author of Reading Reconsidered that the time when your student is able to read independently is the very time you should amp up the read-alouds. This excerpt from the article linked here, explains it wonderfully:
Kids should pick books they love, and read what they want on their own. Agency is key. But there is a popular perception that to get kids to love to read, we should make it easy. That way they can make it through, build confidence, and ideally, start to love reading on their own...Lemov has more faith in kids, as long as they can harness the help of parents or other caregivers to help them along. 'Because challenge is far more engaging in the long run than pandering,' he writes.

When using literature to teach history, reading aloud also allows you to introduce more complex
stories and concepts. It's one of the many reasons our K-3 level history programs contain books that are written at a 5th or 6th grade reading level. These books add a richness to the study that would be missing if the curriculum were limited to books written for 2nd graders. Children are often able to comprehend so much more than we realize and using that ability to introduce them to a varied and challenging smorgasbord of story, literature, poetry, and myth will enliven their minds, whet their appetite for more reading, spark their curiosity, and provide great fodder for discussion. You probably noticed that the language employed in the previous sentence is language usually associated with food and eating. I believe there is a parallel. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers who eat a varied diet expose their babies to more flavors via their breastmilk leading to less picky toddlers. When we wean our babies we don't stop introducing food when they're able to spoon feed themselves bland cereal.We continue to challenge them with new flavors and textures. we introduce chopped bites of avocado, banana, chicken. The same should hold true for reading aloud – don't stop challenging your children when they're able to read. It's just the beginning of a whole life-time of experiencing all the literary world has to offer. And keep reading aloud until they leave home. Family read-aloud time never goes to waste. It's a gift that family members can give to one another. Don't forget that sharing stories is a human tradition that goes back to the very beginning of human history. It is something we never outgrow.
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  1. The blog entry states that the guide for elementary students has books written above their reading level so that they will have more complex (and thus more interesting) stories. Do the book choices for the middle school and high school guides also have books above typical reading level?

    Some suggestions for how to be able to read aloud the school selections when schooling multiple levels would be much appreciated as well. 😊

    1. Hi Cynthia, Sorry for the late response, I was on vacation last week. But, the lower level guides contain books that are above reading level, but as the guides progress and become more advanced, the number of challenging or above-grade level books, are fewer and fewer.
      As far as reading aloud to multiple children, we find that most books can be read aloud to a broad range of children. The challenge is keeping little ones occupied! Hand-on activities can be really helpful for all ages, but especially little ones. Coloring pages, play-dough, lego, etc. can all be employed during read-aloud time to keep little hands busy while their minds learn how to listen. Of course, very young children will not always be occupied by more advanced stories and that's OK. We also love encouraging siblings to read to one another. So, 6th graders can read to 2nds grades, etc. Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any further questions.