Written by contributor Jessica Fisher of Life as Mom
As a child, I loved reading. My mom would take us to the library each week where I would select 10-20 books to devour in a matter of days. In my dad’s words, I “always had [my] nose in a book.”
Books were sustenance for my imagination — and the adventures I lived through reading were a welcome respite from the cares of the everyday. Thankfully, I married a reader. And even though he favors theology and other non-fiction while I’ll take a novel any day of the week, we have a family that loves the gift of story and who takes great comfort in books.
For me, it’s not a question of reading ability; it’s a matter of loving a good story. I know the stories that my children love will bring them comfort. And that will draw them to reading.
What’s in Story?
The benefits of story are vast, but here are a few that I’ve observed:
While I want to provide my kids with as many enriching experiences as possible, there are limits on our time, expenses, and era. We can’t sail with the Spanish Main or blast into Outer Space.
But, my boys can travel the world — the past, present, and future, as well as worlds unknown — just by turning the pages of a book.
2. Academic Knowledge
The love of story not only encourages reading and therefore reading ability, it also provides us with a certain degree of cultural literacy. The world is full of great books. And academia has not been remiss in recognizing them.
Knowing Beowulf, Bilbo Baggins, Sherlock Holmes, and Robin Hood does not only add to my boys’ childhood adventures. Being acquainted with these characters, story plots, and themes will also help them in later studies as they compare and contrast different societies, look for connections between art and life, and understand literary allusions and jokes.
3. Pure Laughter and Enjoyment
A good story is one that captures you, carries you to another world, and fully entertains you while you’re gone. Laughter is one of the best medicines–I want my kids to taste it as often as possible.
Exposing my family to books helps me achieve this — and provides good fun for me, too.
4. A Shared Experience
Though I have three fluent readers amongst my children, we still have family read alouds. A story that I read to the littles can quickly draw in the rest until all six children are listening with rapt attention. If we’re not reading one book together, it’s not uncommon for a story to change hands several times before it returns to the library or home bookshelf.
By reading in common my kids and I share those wild adventures and develop a sense of camaraderie. We understand “inside jokes” about Muggles or second breakfasts — and our lives together are richer.
Well-loved stories are a comfort. You can trust Aslan and Gandalf to be what you’ve always known them to be, despite the upheavals of your own life. Familiar characters make steadfast friends.
Reading together as a family is a comfort as well. Our day can be full of disagreements and misunderstandings, but spending a few hours in Narnia or the Hundred Acre Wood helps ease the stress of family squabbles and the cares of the mundane.
Many a day have I ditched the lesson plans in exchange for a cuddle on the couch and a journey to some far off place.
Story nurtures our homeschool.
Developing a love of books is one of the most important parts of our homeschool.
Not only is it academically sound, but it is also a way of nurturing my children, of creating a learning atmosphere that is free and flowing, and of providing them stability — in me and in the books they’ve come to love.
What role does story play in your homeschool?
“Familiar characters make steadfast friends.” Just beautiful, Jessica. Thanks for a great post. We’re huge readers around here.
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Story plays a bigger role than most anything else in our homeschool, other than maybe creativity. For our family reading together is more important than formal math, science, spelling etc… (in terms of time I devote to it) so of course I loved this post of yours.
I am right there with ya!
caroline starr rose
As a teacher turned children’s author, this post makes my heart sing. I love you are continuing family read alouds even though several of your kids are reading well on their own. The community and memories built during these times is irreplaceable.
One thing I’d add to you list: reading provides a safe place to experience the world. Through literature, our children will encounter things we hope they’ll never have to in the read world. This brings opportunity for reflection and discussion.
As the amazing Katherine Paterson says, “reading is a dress rehearsal for life.” We can taste, feel, hurt, and celebrate the journeys of others and make them our own. What is more beautiful than that?
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Love that! Yes, my kids are currently totally engrossed in Number the Stars about a Danish family hiding Jews during WW2. I hope that they never have to experience it, but at the same time, it’s a “dress rehearsal” for “just in case.”
Jessica, I subscribe to your blog and always, always enjoy your posts! But, today’s post was particularly special to me. Thank you!
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Thank you! Have a wonderful, book-filled day!
Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith
Comfort, yes! For myself and for my children, storytime is the favorite time of the school day for us. We all scramble on top of Mommy and Daddy’s big bed and start on a new adventure. Our reading time influenced my oldest daughter on her choice of sixth year old birthday party theme, Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland. Funny, she has never seen the Disney version.
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Living the Balanced Life
As a mother of 3 grown homeschool children (we actually homeschooled for 8 years) I have to say that our after lunch reading time was one of the most anticipated times of the day. The kids would urge me to just read one more chapter! We also listened to books on CD in the car when we traveled, which we did a lot of. Just recently, my 20 year old son saw a Ralph Moody book in the giveaway box. He protested highly and took it out! He said “That’s a great book, you can’t get rid of it!” We listened to that whole series on CD, as well as Focus on the Family’s Chronicles of Narnia. Oh, and Belles on their Toes! So funny even now, 7 years later, we will blurt out ” Mo Lasses! We don’t need no mo lasses! Or “Wastin’! Wastin” And we are still huge Narnia fans to this day!
Ahh, wish it could’ve lasted forever. Or maybe not! 🙂
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Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool
One of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was go buy my own copy of Honey for a Child’s Heart (a book filled with reading recommendations for kids). I couldn’t wait to start planning story times!
Thanks for such a great post, Jessica.
Jamie ~ Simple Homeschool’s latest post: Finding Comfort & More in Stories
I love to read, I was always reading as a child and still read today, though I have to limit my reading time now as I have a family and home to care for.
My husband enjoys reading a little bit, but doesn’t read much.
So far my kids love to read and be read to. I hope that they will keep on loving to read so they can learn anything as they want to.
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I’m going to be bad and not follow the rules. Like a few characters I keep in my heart.
My daughter and I just read _The Great Good Thing_ by Roderick Townley and the beginning idea was fantastic. The end didn’t speak to me as much. The main character is an actress in a book, as in, the character that performs when the Reader reads. When the book closes, the characters are free to do as they like. You feel an immediate relationship with the princess.
I Live in an Antbed
We LOVE our read aloud time every day! It is everyone’s favorite part of homeschooling. We have read so many wonderful books over the years. I love that the kids are exposed to wonderful vocabulary, great plot and character development, and rich, complex sentence structure. It helps them in so many other areas of our educational process. We even take a couple of great read-alouds on our epic road trips to read each night before bedtime. Even my husband sits and listens. Rich, wonderful memories.
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My children are new readers, or just beginning, but I read aloud to them at a higher comprehension level both concerning vocabulary and complexity of story line. We have much discussion and often the adventures are acted out throughout the week in the backyard, living room, hallways. When words create confusion, we’ve come to appreciate my ragged college dictionary and the value of context in meaning as well. A refreshing post…
And The Fiddler’s Gun! What a swashbuckling, swell of an adventure!
Wasn’t that a fun book!? I have to get through my others in the stack so I can read The Fiddler’s Green.
I just love this post, everything about it…Yup reading is fundamental. Books are a top priority in our house. If my kids love books they can discover anything they need to know, they can explore the whole wide world – real or imagined, they will have friends that are always there for them… friends from every time and every location. The best way to learn to love reading is to be read to!!! Here is a post I wrote on Family reading time that you might like: http://www.se7en.org.za/2011/03/24/se7en-tips-for-family-reading-time
I’m not (and never was) a homeschooler, but I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with this post. I read many books a week, and I remember a time in college when I finally was able to take time to free read. Ah, finally.
One reason I will push my husband HARD to let us consider homeschooling in the possible future (if we choose to have kids) is that he had teachers who reprimanded him for “reading too much.” What?! I think his parents had a hard time not laughing at them. I don’t think there is ever a thing as “reading too much.”
And today I’m learning about hoboes and the western migration/railroad building times, courtesy of a book that looked interesting at my last library visit.
My dad didn’t understand while I always had my “nose in a book.” Some non-readers just don’t get it. He’s become a reader in his retirement, just not things I would like to read!
Jessica’s latest post: A Good Story- What’s In It for You
I am mom to three grown kids and an at home 8 year old and Nana to two grandsons. All have books as a major part of their lives. I read aloud to all my kids and I still do to my youngest son and grandsons. My 8 year old is a superb reader, but we still read together every night. It is my favorite part of the day. It is as though we are on a secret adventure together. Right now we are reading “Peter and the Shadow Thieves”, so much suspense and fun. Thank you for this wonderful post!
Loved this post! I too was the child who always had my nose in a book. One of my greatest delights the last couple months has been watching my six year old turn into a reader. I’m a little overwhelmed at how fast she is going through books but that just means we get to go to the library. There is nothing I like better than curling up with my children with a stack of books. And I get to call it “school”!
Love this post! We read aloud every night before bed and have been through many, many books. Right now we are reading At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. Love that The Fiddler’s Gun is in your picture and can I recommend The WingFeather Saga? A.S. Peterson’s brother wrote this series for children. My kids love it.
I love that you talked about how enriching storybooks can be for children. As you said, they get to experience a lot of things, even things that are not from our era today. I hope I can buy a couple of good fantasy children’s book that is based on our Christian faith as well. It will help us impart our beliefs to our children and help them apply it to their life as they grow up.