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Reading, Reading and Reading
by Yvonne Mutch
 
I always know if I’m reading something especially interesting if my children ask, “Are we going to read?” before I get a chance to announce that it’s time to read. At present, the book that fits this description is “The Secret Garden.” Daily, we are getting to know Mary Lennox as we observe her transformation from disagreeable, sour faced little girl to a most agreeable and likable child.

If, however, you are wondering what is my point, it is simply this: Don’t stop reading to your children when they can read fluently on their own. If you do, your children will miss a lot. For one thing, they will miss numerous opportunities to enlarge their vocabulary, although I rarely stop to explain a new word. I let them “pick it up” in the context of the sentence and story we are reading. I only stop to explain a word if it is essential to understanding key elements of the story. And similarly, when children have heard a multitude of words, then later on when they come across a phonetically difficult word, they will more easily sound it out or figure it out. Listen comprehension is indeed the forerunner to reading comprehension. This would be the reason that my third daughter could pick up the bible when she first learned to read and read words like “glorious” and “tribulation” without a moments pause. She has heard those words so often; they were like old friends.

Another reason to continue reading to your children is that it will continue to help improve their speech, diction and enunciation. (And you, too, will improve in your enunciation as you read aloud increasingly complex sentence structures.) Additionally, they will absorb and carry over this skill when they, in turn, begin to read aloud to younger siblings. After all, reading a good children’s book requires more then just knowing the words. It requires reading with emotion. In addition, the reading experience is enhanced when one reads with a different “voice” for each character. This is how a book comes alive. And, as with previous “skills,” your children will learn this best if you model it for them.

An advantage of continuing to read to you children is that you will be able to read to them at a higher level then they could read on their own, as listening comprehension always exceeds reading comprehension. As stated earlier, your children will have a “jumpstart” with increased understanding of vocabulary when they are able to “hear” the words in their context of meaning. However, in instances where I have had to pick up a dictionary because I don’t understand a word, this has turned out to be a good learning experience for all of us. Sometimes, we will try to guess the word’s meaning while the dictionary is being consulted. And I have found that after modeling this to my children, they now want to be the ones to look up the new words when we are stumped. This has been a pleasant but unexpected benefit of reading aloud to my children.

Additionally, I have found that by reading aloud to my children, I have made them more comfortable with some of the great authors. I want my two younger children to be familiar with Charles Dickens and Jane Austin and that is why I have already read aloud, “A Christmas Carol” and plan to read soon “pride and Prejudice.” I want to introduce my children to as many great minds as possible because I believe this is one way great minds are produced. Furthermore, by introducing these great classics to my children now, (before they are ready or willing), then later on they will be more likely to pick up and read one of these authors’ books with the intent of reading for pleasure. They will not be intimidated because the author has already become a “friend” that they are familiar with. This type of reading is much more beneficial than the obligatory reading of a book that is on someone’s required reading list. Indeed, this is what I witnessed with my two older children. They picked up books which I have yet to read, books such as Vanity Fair or Portrait of a lady or any one of Shakespeare’s works. (Maybe one day I will catch up….)

And finally, although there is much more to be said, reading aloud is a shared family experience that will create a strong family bond and many happy memories. As you read, the characters and their adventures become a part of you. Therefore, this is why I would suggest choosing your books wisely. There are to many outstanding books to settle for mediocre ones. Also, I try to juggle the type of books I read so that, together, we experience a variety adventures. Some books I read because of their historical fiction value. Others, I simply read for fun. Sometimes, however, I read a book and combine it with an accompanying study guide. And often, I read more then one book at a time. One rule is certain, however; I never read a book I don’t enjoy, even if it is on someone’s “must read” list. And don’t disregard a book because you’ve already seen the movie. (Oftentimes, the book truly is superior to the movie.) Had our family done this, we would have missed out on books such as “Pinocchio” and “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Each family is unique however, and each family will want to choose their own adventures, pertaining to their needs and desires. However, there is almost no better way to create a strong family bond then to share good books together.

As you may have discerned, I firmly believe that reading aloud to your children is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing, you can do in your homeschool. (And of course, if you are a Christian that would mean that the Bible is the most important book to read). After all, we are supposed to redeem the time wisely. We don’t have time for everything, but make time to read to your children.

The memory of being read to is a solace one carries into adulthood. It can wash over a multitude of parental sins. - - - Kathleen Rockwell Laurence

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