Having kids is such a fascinating thing. As a parent, it is sometimes difficult to know how to inspire and motivate them for certain things. Sometimes what seems like the silliest thing, makes the most significant difference. Sometimes the path they choose to learn a topic comes in a way you just didn’t expect. When I started homeschooling, this was something I just didn’t think about. I blindly assumed M would learn in the way I taught her based on the selected curriculum. Luckily for us both, I am the one who has much to learn about teaching and learning.
Teaching M to read was one of those things for me. I thought it was so straightforward. And, I was surprised when success came for her in ways I just didn’t expect.
There is so much pressure and expectation that our society puts on kids to read at such a young age. I have come to learn that there is a pretty broad age range of reading readiness. Some kids start super early, and some kids are older. It is all completely normal.
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Previous to us homeschooling, M developed pretty low confidence in reading for a variety of reasons relating to her last school experience. When we started homeschooling, it took some time to get excited about reading again.Much of that first year home was spent starting over with reading. I was lucky to find All About Reading right away and we had so much success using it. You can read about our experiences with it in that first year here: How All About Reading Saved Our Homeschool
Teaching a Love of Reading
Building confidence in reading came only after M learned to love reading which took some time. We started out by choosing lots of funny stories. She adored finding witty books that made her laugh. It kept pushing her forward. One of the things early on that I made sure to never do was reading summaries or book reports or anything like that. It is my own opinion (and maybe others have success using those tools), but for us, it would have killed the excitement of the story. After M completed a book, I’d ask her to tell me about it. Or, we would chat about what was happening in her stories periodically. But, I would never make her write about it, or look up answers to questions, etc. I wanted her to just read for fun. To love reading. To love stories. To not have any further requirements other than to read and enjoy it.
Writing for us is an entirely separate thing. M learns grammar and Language arts, but it is not associated with reporting on what books she is reading.
It turns out, for M, this approach worked. She learned to love reading, and she now begs to spend time reading. She doesn’t associate reading with further requirements, and she reads for her interest now. It is wonderful.
Aside from independent reading we also use this approach when reading stories together. Recently, we started reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio as a read aloud. This book is terrific for 4th and 5th grade, and while I read, M draws, knits, or works on some other handwork craft. We stop and discuss things as they come up in the book. Sometimes I ask her open-ended questions which get our conversation going. Sometimes she stops me, and we clarify what something means together. This book has been fascinating because of the individual character focus and also the underlying kindness theme. There are so many opportunities to pause and discuss things that are important in this book, and I think it will be more memorable and more impactful than if I had her read it alone and write a book report.
Did you know that homeschoolers can participate in many of the reading incentive programs? We did the summer reading program last spring at Barnes and Noble before all of the schools got out for summer. It was super fun for her. The link for the 2018 reading incentive is not available yet. We did this last year in May, so it should be coming out soon.
Find a Series to Love
The most significant turning point for us was when M discovered Harry Potter. She watched the first movie and was so utterly hooked. We spent most of last year listening to the entire Harry Potter series on auto CD. We checked them out from the library, and every one of them was just fantastic! If your library has a long wait list (like I know many do), they are also available on Audible. M now has a few of them on Audible, and they are in a continuous loop on her playlist. If you haven’t experienced listening to the audio of Harry Potter, I am telling you that you are really in for a treat. Jim Dale is a fantastic narrator, and he brings the stories to life with all of the voices he uses. If Harry Potter isn’t your thing and you want to find another series to listen to, Audible can let you listen to a preview which I find super useful when deciding if the narrators’ style is something I will enjoy listening to. Also, currently when you sign up, you can choose two free audiobooks which is fantastic!
Last summer, we walked into a little bookshop while on vacation up north. M saw the beautiful hardcover Harry Potter books on display. We purchased one and she could hardly wait to start reading it. She knew the story. She had watched the movie. She had heard it read to her. And now, she NEEDED to read it for herself. That first book was a challenge for her I am sure. She jumped from small chapter books to reading Harry Potter. I watched her stick with that book every day. I know how challenging it must have been for her but she never said she struggled. She loved it and she took her time to read and understand it all. And because she loved it, she stuck with it.
I think I may never forget the moment M came down the stairs from reading Harry Potter in her room and telling me she just finished the first novel. I was so proud of her, and she was just beaming. It is a big stand out moment for me when I think about why homeschooling works for us. Her abilities as a reader soared after that. She has developed so much confidence in reading now that she asks to tackle other challenging books with no hesitation.
Do lots of Read Alouds
Adding read alouds is something I always knew we needed to do in our homeschool, but sometimes it is just hard to find the time to sit down without lots of interruptions. Here are some of the ways I found to solve this:
- Have audio stories play in the car when we drive. This is how we started listening to Harry Potter. We also listened to Narnia, Emily Windsnap, Percy Jackson, and several others this way. It can be a nice way to allow literature to be part of everyday life where it is not just during “school time”. I always let M pick the audiobooks she is interested in and we often look for a series.
- Another creative way to incorporate more read alouds is to sign up for Audible. We recently just discovered this, and it has been a lifesaver for me. On days where I need to spend more time with the twins or have too many other obligations, Having M listen to a new book on audible and crafting or drawing, etc. has been so helpful. Plus, I don’t feel too guilty, because she loves to sit and listen with her headphones on. I think she views it as a treat.
One of the best places to find Read Aloud resources and inspiration for me has been Read Aloud Revival. I am such a huge fan of getting inspiration from the Read Aloud Revival Podcasts. There is so much information there and it is a great place to find ideas for books for your particular grade level and so much more. I hope you get a chance to check them out and feel as inspired by the resources there as I do!
Confidence in reading takes some time. For us, it was about detoxing from the things that were holding her back and finding new ways to get her excited about reading. After that, confidence came naturally as her reading progressed. Do you have other ideas that have helped your kids build confidence in reading? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to join the conversation!
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