The following is a guest post written by Beth Watson of Classical Conversations at Home
Amelia Bedelia. Pippi Longstocking. Anne of Green Gables.
These are just a few of my favorite book characters from growing up.
I love reading. I always have. My husband likes “reading” by listening to books. We’ve both found a place in teaching our children to read classically.
Our children are ages 7, 5, 4, and 2. I’d like to think we are teaching all of them to read right now and I believe the classical model supports this.
We spend lots of time enjoying words from a wide range of books in a variety of modes. Classical education first prescribes phonics teaching to develop pathways and a sturdy foundation for a child.
Symbols (letters) make sounds and those sounds put together make words. Start by teaching the alphabet and the sounds each letter makes. The brain is wired to make these connections, which will later help when reading, writing or spelling more difficult words.
Next, read lots of quality material. Before you start thinking I mean Plato, Shakespeare, etc., let me give you a few things we look for when selecting books to read.
• What books do I love? There are so many books that I remember with fondness from my childhood and would be sad if my littles missed out on them. For me, that’s Fuzzy Rabbit or The Secret Garden (& so many more! including the titles listed above.)
If you’re wondering where to start, check out the lists found at 1000 Good Books .
What does this look like in our daily life?
After breakfast, they each memorize a Bible verse from their Awana books and draw about what the verse means.
Mid-morning, I work on a phonics program with my 5 year old. Throughout the day, my 7 year old and I read toddler type books to my 4 and 2 year old.
While everyone is enjoying rest and quiet in the afternoon, my 7 year old reads something fun to himself. Right now, he’s reading The Jungle Book, followed by any number of animal books.
Anytime we jump in the car, they all beg my husband to put on the next chapter of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. He happily obliges, because he enjoys the story too.
And finally, at bedtime, my husband reads to them from the Bible, while allowing each of them to take a turn at reading the next three chapter titles.
My 7 year old is the only independent reader right now among our bunch. Two years ago we completed Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I was looking for a strong phonics emphasis and chose this one for its ease of use. Since then, we’ve simply been reading.
I, myself, have actually been doing a great deal of reading recently too. My reading has been on classical education. I was happy to discover my natural inclination to simply allow him to read fit the classical model.
As Leigh Bortins says in The Core, reading should occur in 3 ways:
- your child should read at his reading level
- your child should read below his reading level
- you should read to your child above his reading level
Why is this?
Reading at their level gently challenges them, reading below their level is enjoyable for them and allows for mastery of common words, and reading to them above their level exposes them to an immense vocabulary.
An audio book above their level can do the same thing. All of this exposure will give them a recognizable comfort around words, which has the intent of making reading far less intimidating.
Through all this reading, both by them and to them, we’re reveling in the beauty and diversity of the English language and teaching them that reading is fun, especially when a really good story is involved!
For my 7 year old, this has worked like a charm. For my 5 year old, I see it working a little more slowly, but working nonetheless.
So, for us, we’ll keep with this simple approach to reading. Because reading well is fundamental to becoming a lifelong learner of any and all subjects, which is, after all, one of our greatest goals in homeschooling our children.
How about you? How do you approach reading in your home?