In our last Read Aloud post, I talked about nine reasons read alouds are so beneficial for our children.
Today, let’s talk about what books to choose, how long we should read for, and how to help our kids pay attention during read alouds in homeschools.
And at this point, you may be wondering if audio books are just as good as reading aloud to our children. So let’s discuss how audio books are great for our children, but not quite as good as reading aloud to them!
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What Books Should You Choose For Read Alouds
I talked in the last post about how read alouds in homeschools are good to expose our children to higher level texts than they would read on their own.
By reading these higher level books, we help them learn more sophisticated language patterns. They hear longer, more complex sentences. The sentences contain higher level vocabulary and grammatical concepts than they will likely read on their own.
In addition to the level of the text, here are some other considerations when choosing books for read alouds.
Choose Living Books
One good rule of thumb is to choose living books. Living books are the opposite of textbooks! They are engaging, they inpsire imagination, and they often have a story to them. Living books can be good quality fiction, historical fiction, science-based fiction, or non-fiction that is not just dry facts. They often invoke emotion and provide good topics for discussion.
Should we choose books on topics we are already studying in our homeschools or that are different than what we are studying? YES!
We might want to choose a book that accompanies what we are learning in our history or science curriculum. If we are studying Africa, we can choose A Long Walk to Water or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind to accompany our learning. Or if we are learning about geology, we could add Jake and the Quake to our read aloud time. Studying World War II history? There are many great historical fiction books, such as Code Talker about the contributions of Navajos who enlisted in the Marines during World War II.
Or maybe our children have a special interest that we are not currently learning about in our homeschool. A read aloud is a great time to encourage and inspire this interest. Maybe they love animals? We recently read the fiction book, Of a Feather, and learned all about owls and falconry as my son has an interest in birds. Or if you have a child who loves space, Vacation Guide to the Solar System could be fun.
Books for Multiple Ages
What if you have multiple ages in your homeschool? If your children are not too spread out in age, then I would lean toward choosing a book that is engaging for your oldest child, but might be something they could read themselves. Even if your younger children do not grasp everything you read to them, they will still enjoy the experience and be exposed to great vocabulary and complex language that will serve them well later.
However, if your children are spread from high school to preschool, then this might be a bit more challenging. One solution is to have your older children read aloud to your younger children and you can read aloud to the older children. This way everyone has someone reading something a bit challenging to them, but you have not created any extra work for yourself. 😉
Where Should Read Alouds in Homeschools Happen?
Of course, they can happen where ever you want them to happen! But here are a couple thoughts…
One, I like to do them somewhere different than where we do most of our other work….some place more casual and cozy. We often read in our living room or on our porch when the weather is nice.
You could also take your read alouds on the road…to a park or coffee shop. However, some children will be too distracted in these locations to pay attention to someone reading. So we need to do whatever works for our families.
When Should We Do Our Read Aloud?
A read aloud should be relaxing. Personally, we like to do it at the end of our school day to transition away from school work and into relaxation time. But many families start the day with a read aloud to bring everyone together and get their moods and minds ready for the day.
There really is not a right or wrong time for a read aloud, but I caution against trying to squeeze it into your schedule where you have time constraints and might feel rushed.
How Long Should We Read For?
A rule of thumb to know how long a child can attend to a book or lesson on ‘average’ is to multiply their age by two or three. So on ‘average’ an eight-year would attend for about 20 minutes and a twelve-year old would attend for about 30 minutes. Of course, what the activity is will determine how long a child will attend and every child is different. Some children may become engrossed in listening to the book and not want to stop.
To determine how long you should read to multiple children, I would average your children’s ages and then multiply by 2.5 and try that length of time. If they are still attending at the end of it, keep reading for a little longer. If they start to lose interest, become disruptive, etc. before that length of time, then I would end early. Make a note of how long you read so that next time you can read to them for a slightly shorter amount of time and hopefully end on a positive note.
As our children become accustomed to you reading aloud to them, it is likely they will attend for longer periods of time as long as they are interested in the book. For kids who continue to have difficulty paying attention, it can be helpful for them to have a quiet activity to do during the book.
Activities Children Can Do During Read Alouds in Homeschools
If you are concerned that your children will have difficulty attending to a read aloud, have a quiet activity they can do with their hands. Coloring, drawing, playing with playdough, making origami, and building with Legos or K’Nex are all easy ones to incorporate. You could provide coloring pages that correspond with the current book you are reading. Or not! Kids could draw or create an object that goes with the story…maybe work in some of the descriptive language they are hearing. Or they could just create whatever they feel like.
When my boys were younger, they would play catch while I read to them. Or if we are reading outside, one of them likes to lay on the deck and soak up the sun like a turtle. Petting dogs or cats or playing with baby siblings are good activities, too!
Are Audio Books Just As Good As Read Alouds?
You may be wondering at this point if audio books can do the job for you! Audio books are great for encouraging our children’s language development and sparking their imaginations. (They were also great at keeping my kids from fighting in the car when they were younger! 😉)
I highly recommend using them, especially if one of your children has a reading delay or disability that is significantly impacting their ability to read books on their own that would interest them.
But, you would be missing out on a few benefits of family read alouds. It can be harder to stop and discuss vocabulary words, plot lines that might be hard to follow, visualizations of descriptive language, and the theme and values in the book.
It could be beneficial to try both read alouds and audio books in your homeschool and see how they each benefit your family. You may decide one works better than the other or you might mix and match the two of them depending on what is going on in your life!
Keeping Track of the Books You Read
You may want to keep a list of the books you read throughout the year.
It can be fun to look back and see how many you read.
You can also use the list to make connections between the different books you have read. Reviewing your list each time you start and finish a book can help you make these connections. Forming connections between information in our brains is a key part of learning!
Or you may live in a state where you have to keep records of what you do. Regardless of your reason, here is a simple printable homeschool book log you can use.
Do you have a favorite read aloud you have done with your family. Or if you are new to read alouds, do you have a book in mind that you want to try? Comment below!