Books, beautiful books! Storybooks and picture books, Bibles and commentaries, educational books and puzzle books, encyclopaedias and dictionaries, novels and non-fiction books on every topic under the sun – these treasures are irreplaceable despite all the technological advances. Open their pages and you can do things, go places and learn about all sorts. Make use of the library or the local charity shop and the adventure in each book is relatively cheap. Do you gain as much as you could from these wonderful resources? Reading aloud to your family allows for optimal use of a book.
There are many advantages to reading aloud to your children. Firstly, it is a social activity that gives the family a sense of unity. You have a common interest and gain common knowledge. You can speculate together what will happen next or the book may form a basis for discussion, either immediately or sometime in the future. But there is more to it than merely taking part in a common activity. As you gather your children around you to listen, you create a nurturing atmosphere. The sense of security that results contributes to later development of healthy independence.
Secondly, reading aloud gives our children access to books that they would not usually choose to read for themselves and those that are too difficult for them. When children can read for themselves, a whole new world opens for them, but they only have access to books at their own reading level. Reading aloud exposes them to stories, vocabulary and ideas in books that are above their reading abilities.
Thirdly, reading aloud obviously contributes to various aspects of language development. It expands vocabulary and stimulates cognitive growth. The constant analysis of language and the comprehension of information facilitate further learning as the children apply their abilities to other situations. In addition, the family is exposed to a variety of ‘virtual’ experiences that result in increased general knowledge. While everyone enjoys the pleasure of hearing the same story, each person’s imagination is stimulated individually. This contributes to lively and interesting discussions or debates.
Fourthly, along with language and cognitive development goes character development. As adults we automatically, and perhaps even subconsciously, make judgements about the characters in the book. As we teach our children to make the same critical evaluation, they gain knowledge of what constitutes admirable character and what does not.
Fifthly, gathering together around a good book is fun, relaxing, and for a busy mom, not very taxing. Reading aloud is a handy alternative to teaching when the usual routine has to be abandoned. It requires no preparation, no equipment except a book, can be done in a variety of places and is many lessons in one activity. It is pure pleasure and highly educational at the same time. Enjoy!
Tips on reading aloud:
- Set a regular time to read aloud. It could be before bedtime as a quiet-down activity, after meals to extend family time, or a regular part of your teaching time.
- It need not only be the parents that read aloud. Family members can take turns, or older children can read to younger siblings.
- Use expression, gestures, different voices and accents to bring the story to life.
- Sit comfortably while you read. Either gather your children in close, or have them do another quiet activity while you read. They could colour in, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, paint, play with Lego or do a puzzle. You will find that they concentrate better when their hands are busy!
- Use the opportunity to train your children think critically by asking a variety of questions. For example, ask your children to predict the events of the next chapter, or ask which characters they would like to be and why. (For more ideas see Critical Conditioning by Kathryn Stout, available from www.designastudy.com)
- Do not neglect reading non-fiction aloud.
- Choose books that are slightly above your children’s vocabulary level.
- When reading aloud to the whole family, do not worry that the book may be far above the youngest. They all take in what they are able to at their own level. Encourage your children to ask when they do not understand a word or situation. Have older ones explain meanings to younger ones.
- Aid self-expression by periodically having the children take turns to relate or “tell back” (Charlotte Mason-style) a certain section of the book. Ask, “What do think happened?” or other such similar questions. If the children enjoy play-acting, they could also dramatize a scene.
- Add interest by finding out about the author or do further research on related topics.
- Allow family members to take turns in choosing the read-aloud book.
- As far as possible, choose unabridged versions of the classics. This exposes children to more complex language. Reading unabridged versions of The Railway Children or Treasure Island makes authors such as Dickens and Austen more accessible to the children at an earlier age. Often the details of the plot are left out in an abridged version – the unabridged version is more interesting and satisfying.
- Visit www.classical-homeschooling.org for the list “1000 Good Books, 100 Great Books”. Add in your own good S.A. books. Use this list for personal and reading-aloud choices.
Recommended books on home education
Home is not the same as school education. Reading a variety of books on the subject helps to crystallise the differences and to realise the many opportunities available to us from a home education point of view.
Codes given with each book refer to book suppliers listed at the end.
- The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook - Raymond and Dorothy Moore OFM. This is an excellent book both for beginners and for those who need encouragement.
- Better Late than Early - Raymond and Dorothy Moore OFM. At school children all start to read in Grade 1, but not all are ready do so. This book encourages you to start when the child is ready rather than at a random age and the authors give well-researched reasons for starting later rather than earlier.
- Minding Your Own Business – Raymond and Dorothy Moore OFM. Reasons for children being involved in cottage industries and lots of ideas.
- You Can Teach your Children Successfully - Ruth Beechik OFM. An excellent practical guide to teaching. Guidance in all subjects.
- The 3 R’s - Ruth Beechik OFM. Practical help for the early years.
- The Language Wars - Ruth Beechik OFM. A collection of Ruth’s articles which formerly appeared in homeschool magazines. Food for thought.
- Homeschool Answer Book - Ruth Beechik OFM. A collection of questions and answers previously asked and answered at conferences or in a magazine column.
- Hints on Child Training – C Trumbull OFM
- Gaining Confidence to Teach – Debbie Strayer. An excellent book of encouragement for homeschooling moms.
- The Heart of Homeschooling - Christopher Klicka CLB. The big picture of home education.
- The Right Choice, Home Schooling - Christopher Klicka CLB. Reasons why home education is preferable to public education. Interesting information and a couple of chapters with practical ways to get started.
- The Christian Home School - Gregg Harris CLB. A good overview of home education, why to embrace it and how to get started.
- The Christian School – Noel Weeks (Banner of Truth) CLB. Guidelines for how a real Christian school should operate.
- Repairing the Ruins - Canon Press CLB
- Christian Homeschooling - Christian Liberty Press CLB
- Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning - Doug.Wilson CLB/AB. An excellent book on the classical approach to home education.
- Teaching the Trivium – Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn AB. A comprehensive guide to teaching with the classical approach.
- Foundations of Christian Education (addresses to Christian Teachers) - Louis Berkhof & Cornelius van Til CLB
- Homeschooling with Confidence - Rick Boyer. A general easy-to-read book on home education.
- The Socialisation Trap - Rick Boyer. Reasons why we need not worry about the socialization question.
- School proof - Mary Pride AB. Reasons to be at home with your children.
- Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling – Mary Pride. Excellent practical advice. Very comprehensive.
- The Way Home - Mary Pride
- All the Way Home - Mary Pride
- For the children’s Sake - Susan Schaeffer Macauly. Philosophy of education based on Charlotte Mason’s principles.
- A Survivor’s Guide to Homeschooling - Luanne Shackleford AB. Good reading for any mom who needs a lift.
- Beyond Survival - Diana Waring The Organised Homeschooler – Vicky Caruana AB. Each chapter gives step by step practical ways to become and stay organized.
- How to create your own Unit Study - Valerie Bendt
- Unit Study Idea Book - Valerie Bendt
- How to tutor - Samuel Blumenfeld
- The Original Homeschooling Series – Charlotte Mason WY (WSL)
- Charlotte Mason Companion – Karen Andreola WY (WSL)
- A Pocket full of Pinecones – Karen Andreola WY (WSL)
- Charlotte Mason Study Guide – Penny Gardner WY (WSL)
- Seasons of a Mother’s Heart – Sally Clarkson WY (WSL)
- Educating the Wholehearted Child - Clay and Sally Clarkson WY (WSL) An excellent read. Covers all aspects of home education.
- A Living Education – Wendy Young WY. Home education the South African way.
- More than 101 Things to do in 702land - Carole Veitch. A book of things to do and places to go in Guuteng, with all the necessary contact details. Very handy. Out of Print — Download pdf version of entire book (1.1Mb). Download School Holiday Guide 2009
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart - Ted Tripp GN. An excellent guide to raising children.
- Age of Opportunity - David Paul Tripp GN. An excellent guide to parenting young adults.
- OFM - Oikos Family Ministries Tel 033- 502-9050; fax 033 502-9052
- CLB - Christian Liberty Books Tel/fax 021 689-7478
- GN - Good Neighbours Christian Bookshop Tel 011 704-1857; fax 462-4627
- AB – Augustine Bookroom Tel/fax 012 993-4606
- WY – Wendy Young Tel: 082 901-8686 (WSL= while stocks last)
- Basically Books - Web Site
- For online orders try www.Take2.co.za or www.Loot.co.za