The following is a guest post by Joy Cherrick of Scottsdale Moms Blog.
Reading time in our home started off as a bit of a chore for me. Though I love cuddling up with my little ones on the couch, I’d rather be cleaning up a mess or fixing a meal or attending to the baby or otherwise checking something off of my list.
However, when I first looked into a preschool curriculum for our homeschool, I found that every educational philosophy took me back to the basics: reading to my children with a heavy helping of play.
I looked hard for a curriculum with worksheets or some other measurable task to check off; but reading a book was always at the basis of every list and every educational philosophy that I encountered.
And so, I submitted myself to what the research says works best. I grabbed my glass of water and rounded up my wiggly preschoolers for some good old-fashioned read-aloud fun with mom.
As I mentioned, it didn’t start off as an easy thing for me to do. My mouth would get dry and my voice would tire. But I’ve found books that I enjoy and have developed a stamina for reading for as long as an hour! And I’ve been surprised and thrilled by what Reagan (4-and-a-half) and Elliot (2-and-a-half) have learned about the world just through reading!
And what have they learned, you ask?
They have learned about new places
I started reading Betsy Books by Carolyn Haywood to my daughter, Reagan, when she was just 3-and-a-half and was very surprised at how much she loved them and learned from the stories and characters.
Even though she’s never been to school, nor does she have friends who go to school, she plays school!
These darling books take place in real life settings, and Reagan has learned so much about places she’s never been in real life but has experienced with her new friend, Betsy!
Elliot, is our little cowboy and lover of cars. We have the book Cowboy Small by Louis Lenski and have read it dozens and dozens of times.
We recently went to a horse farm and Elliot pointed and said, “There’s the corral!” Next he wanted to feed the horses “oats and hay,” which is exactly what Cowboy Small feeds his horse.
They’ve learned new vocabulary words
Recently, we read Charlotte’s Web with Reagan. At lunch one day, Reagan announced that she would like to live on a farm and have some animals.
I asked, “What animals would you like to have on your farm?” She replied with, “Oh, just some pigs and chickens and horses. I will go out and slop the pigs!”
Really?! I thought. She had picked up on the vocabulary of what a pig eats!
As for Elliot, he was very early to recite his ABCs. One day, when being quizzed by a Grandma, he surprised us all that he knew all his letters by sight! It’s still a mystery to me how at two he learned so much, but I can only attribute it to how much we read.
They learn about how to treat others
The stories we read have characters who get into all sorts situations. When a character is being unkind or, when there is a misunderstanding between characters, we have the opportunity to discuss what the character should or should not do. (Such as the Ugly Duckling or the Step-sisters in Cinderella.)
At such young ages, I’m amazed at their capacity to reason and understand the story.
Reagan frequently interrupts my reading to ask, “Why did she do that,” or state, “He shouldn’t do that; he should say that he’s sorry.”
I’m able to learn about her sensitive heart, and I get to ask her what she thinks the character should do.
My two-year old is thinking a bit less deeply. When we were reading the story of David and Goliath, at the part where Goliath calls out, “And who shall fight me?” Elliot jumps out with his invisible sword and declares, “I will fight him!”
Ah, my great protector.
Perhaps it’s silly that this book-to-life learning in my children takes me by surprise, but it does. I wonder what they pick up out of our reading time.
One thing is certain, I can’t control what they learn, what they fall in love with or what questions the stories will entice them to ask.
I can only lead them to meet great characters and see great places, together.
How about you? What have your kids learned from the books they read?
We just read Charlotte’s Web too! Slop was also a new vocab word around here. 🙂 The Roman numerals used for the chapters even gave rise to an unexpected math lesson. http://ourunschoolhouse.com/2014/04/09/the-kids-book-review-of-charlottes-web/
I agree that especially with the preschool crowd, if all you have time for is reading some good books and letting them play then you’ve had a successful homeschooling day! We also recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I was surprised that that led to lots of learning about character development. Nobody wants to be a Veruca Salt! Oh and another recent and goodie, Rosie Revere Engineer, taught my building/designer-loving daughter that “hey, I’m like Rosie! I could be an engineer!” Yes, books provide endless learning moments!
Oh this is wonderful Amy! I’m glad I’m not the only one! I forgot all about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! We’ll have to pick that one up this Summer!!!
Thank you so much for this post. My husband is traveling a lot and I have found myself overwhelmed with my to-do’s and putting reading time aside (I have 4 kids under 7). I really needed this sweet encouragement this morning! Thank you!
My pleasure, Nicole! I hope that you continue to build sweet memories with your kiddos, even when you’re in survival mode!!
One of my great passions in life is reading, and I am hopefully sharing that love of reading/learning to my own kids. My kids are 5 and nearly 7, and have always said “just ONNNNNE mooore book” after reading an entire pile. They love to read with me. My son, who I thought for sure would be reading early (nearly 7) is only just reading the preK levels of independent readers, and sometimes struggling. It took him a year after knowing the phonetics just to practice out loud. What he lacked in confidence, I know he will make up in the future. I haven’t forced him and we’ve stopped when he gets flustered, because my end goal is to create a book-lover. Even though he struggles with his own reading, I have no doubt that reading will be an important part of his life in the future, because he will remember all the hours (and hours and hours) I spent reading to them as children. If you’re interested to know more awesome statistics about reading aloud to kids (even once they are independently reading) a great resource is Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook. It’s fascinating all the benefits that come from reading aloud to kids!
Thanks for the reminder to read Charlotte’s Web! I’ve had it on my shelf for ‘later’ but I think my kids are at a good age, and they’ve seen the movie, so the book will be loved, I’m sure. 🙂
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Ha! My husband just checked out from the library and the BOUGHT, Jim Trelease’s book! We were very encouraged by it!!!
The read aloud handbook is a foundational text for parenting, period. Invaluable. Stop and buy this book! By Jim trelease.
I third The Read-Aloud Handbook recommendation, as well as Honey for a Child’s Heart and The Book Whisperer.
To Joy, you already have that figured out though. What a precious article. Loved it.
On the topic of little ones picking up vocabulary and phrasing, my four-year-old the other day said of his brother, “I couldn’t hear you. He was being quite loud.”
I have also found my kids have learned a great deal from reading. I love reading out loud, but only really good books. I can’t stand “character” books with boring words and limited vocabulary…books that don’t “flow”. I see that many homeschoolers call them “twaddle” and prefer “living books” which are also better for children anyways! I highly recommend the books “Read for the Heart” by Sarah Clarkson and “Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt (and if you can only get one, the one by Sarah Clarkson is the better one in my opinion). There are other similar books with reading lists. I also have searched online for suggestions on “living books” and came up with many that way. Also, I recommend moms check out interlibrary loan (not just accessing other libraries in your own city or area but also other cities and towns) for the books you can’t access through your library…its free and I have been able to get so many books through it. I find many people do not know it exists. I even get many picture books this way.
Nola, you are listing books that I keep hearing about and just haven’t picked up yet! I’ll have to get them and read them!!!
And yes, I haven’t figured out the interlibrary load thing in our library, but it’s on my list of things to do thanks for the encouragement that it works for you!
One of the best resources I have ever come across for selecting read alouds is A Picture Perfect Childhood by Cay Gibson. It’s fabulous and I highly recommend it- I use it as the spine for my literature based curriculum.
Oh, I love great resources! Thanks Michelle! I’ll add it to my list!!!
As a teacher for many years, my constant advice to parents was: READ. And my policy was, “You get toys and other things on Christmas and Birthdays, but I’ll buy you a book any day of the year.” My kids really took me up on that offer…and they are voracious readers, even now as adults. P.S. I don’t think e-books substitute…Only in a pinch, when a book isn’t available…there’s something special about books. Great Post, Joy!
Love the pics, too!
Way to go, Joy! So happy you found Carolyn Haywood’s “Betsy” series as wonderful as I did; you’ll enjoy her “Eddie” series, too, I’m sure! When my first child was two and I first heard of homeschooling in 1987, I got very excited about it and began learning all I could. The first piece of advice I received from an older woman was, “If you spend 45 minutes a day reading to your child, you’ll need to do little else.” I never forgot that. And she was right. That child turns 29 this weekend. His daughter now climbs up on my lap with books she likes to hear over and over. You better believe I’ll be reading with her every chance I get!
Ah, how I needed to read this today. I have felt like we’re in a rut, we have books galore but my little man is fixated on 101 Dalmations, ha! I think I have the book memorized. And today he very much pushed to watch Homeward Bound, a VHS (yes, we own a VHS/dvd combo player) my mother-in-law saved from my husband’s childhood. I think he’s been pointing me towards learning about dogs and I just didn’t realize it.
Cindy @ Two Muses Homeschool
Thanks for the post and the gentle reminder! I am finding I love to read the chapter and story books, but the baby books we still have laying around are so tiresome for me! Now that my youngest is 2, I think we can finally retire those types of books. My 4 (and almost 5) loves to pick things like “Where is baby’s belly button?” I can’t quote muster up the enthusiasm I once had for reading that to her when she was 1! My just 2 year old loves to read books, but she is not yet interested in hearing the story. She loves to point and talk about the pictures. I have read less to her than to her sister, so I need to make sure I have reading time with both of them. Thanks again! 🙂
I always loved to read aloud to my kids. I still remember when they were little and we would have cups of tea or cocoa and a good book. Now 4 of them are grown and I have one left with autism, who struggles to read with me. But he can read! Now I have a reading circle in my co-op that I help to read. I would not change it for the world. I love it. It is like being young again. It is great seeing the world through their eyes. We are reading Charlottes Web now and next is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Homer Price. All three are good books.