Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Reading Aloud

I was recently asked how we found so much time to read the amount of books we do. I really wanted to answer the question, & decided to do so here. There is, as always a short answer: We make time. I didn’t figure that would be helpful despite being simple. 
I have been reading aloud to my children since before they were born. It’s not that I was one of those ladies who though I’d give birth to a more intelligent child if I read to them before birth, it’s more that I’ve always been reading & often aloud to someone so my children were also exposed to it. At times, though, I was also intentionally reading children’s books to them before they were born.
Bedtime stories are a standard around here. Sometimes Mr S read a quick picture book to them while standing in the middle of their bedroom & making insane sounds that drive the dog crazy. Other times I’ve been known to sit on a bean bag in their room & read a chapter or two aloud. Heaven help me if one them falls asleep before realizing they heard the end of the chapter or there will be heaps of tears in the morning!
Reading is also now a normal part of our day. We’ve been using literature based curriculum since Morgan first started school some six years ago. Back then we used picture books & read the same picture book each day for five days. We learned a different lesson each day, & then often spent the rest of the month reading that same book at bedtime due to requests from one child or another. To this day, many of the books we used with that curriculum, Five In A Row, are still favourties. 
Jayden always joined us for the reading of those books, & when old enough the lessons as well. He still speaks of Peter Rabbit, whom he first met at the ripe old age of 3, as a fond & favourite friend. So much so that when his brother bought him a stuffed Peter Rabbit this spring there was much whooping & laughter over the gift.
The characters our family has met in those books are still fond friends & spoken of often as if they were family members in far away places that we only get to visit rather infrequently. “Do you think Amber daughter her daughter how to read Mom?” “Do you think Mike Mulligan ever got tired of living in the basement?” “Does Madeline have a Mum?” “Does Grandfather’s daughter feel the same way he did about two countries?”
I didn’t rush into chapter books with my boys. It’s not that I wasn’t eager to introduce them to a whole new world of literature, it’s that we were happy & cozy where we were. Picture Books, while often thought of as for children, are full of many wonderful stories & lessons for big people too. So we took our time about progressing up to chapter books, & even though we may be into them now we aren’t ever above the desire to pick up a picture book & fall in love with it too.
I really think, for my boys chapter books were a gradual thing. Morgan was more then happy to sit & listen for hours on end of the many places hidden between the covers of books. He’s a tinkerer, & sitting on the floor tinkering, inventing, & building were things he enjoyed doing while listening. It took a little more time for Jayden to be truly ready for that jump, especially if it didn’t come with pictures!
I don’t remember the exact moment he decided chapter books were awesome, but I remember very clearly that his favourite one was Heidi. He fell very in love with her plot in life. Her desire to be outside instead of cooped up inside. Her desire to be with her grandfather who allowed her to be outside, where learning came in what she saw & did, no in books & closed rooms. He empathized deeply with her, & when our book was over he couldn’t stop asking questions about little Heidi.

“Did she marry Peter?” “Did Grandfather & Grandmother get married?” “Did she go back up the mountain & enjoy it just as much in the spring?” The list could go on. When I told him there were two more books in the Heidi series his questions died away & were replaced with the desire, no the need, that we should obtain those books & see if they could answer his questions.
From Heidi we moved to Ramona, another favourite for him. Oh how he could relate to the  naughty things Ramona often did, the unintentional habit of getting into trouble while simply trying to do something entirely different. He didn’t find her to be a truly naughty person, but a completely misunderstood person, perhaps stemming from the fact that he too once sat upon the kitchen table & took one bite from every apple in the fruit bowl well before he ever heard of Ramona. He too once told the entire library he was having a party, which he wasn’t, but thankfully didn’t invite any of them. He too has a deep desire for rain boots, all though his are usually blue not red.
After that picking books were pretty simple. We moved into the Nim’s Island series, & bounced to books based on upcoming holidays. We wove our way through early Australian history, & stopped abruptly at the foot of early New World explorers.
It was here that we made the choice to switch to a different literature rich curriculum. Morgan had, at long last, outgrown our original choice. This time daily reading in slightly larger quantities was part of our normal day. We might read a chapter from two or three books, & a few pages from smaller books.
It paved a new path in our day that had us sketching out a specific amount of time each day to read. This was something we kept up even in the summer months. 
Every day after breakfast, once Mr S had left for work we’d grab the book of the day/week & we’d curl up in the living room & I’d read for an hour to the boys. Sometimes we’d go a little longer, & sometimes we’d go a little less it simply depended on the day. After we were done reading the day was ours, but there were many times in the afternoon the kids would ask for more.
Now, it’s habit to start our day with an hour or so of reading every day. Again, we are using a literature rich programme, this time Sonlight. Like the one we used last year our days require a bit of reading. A chapter or two from several different books, a few pages here or there from smaller books; sometimes all on the same day, sometimes not.
We start each morning in the living room while I read aloud for an hour or so to the boys from the books we’re currently using. After that the boys are granted a fifteen to twenty minute break before we move into the rest of our school day.
By lunch time they are ready for more adventure & have taken to asking to listen to their current audio book at lunch time. Which means we often eat while listening to another great adventure. At the end of our school day the boys are required to pull out their current assigned book & read for either a specific length of time or a specific amount of pages/chapters.
None of this happened overnight. It was all a gradual. There was a time, when the boys were younger, I thought our days would be full of The Squeaky Door & Madeline, that we’d never progress to anything longer. That the books lining up on our book shelf back then would forever collect dust.
There was no trick to progressing, it was simply waiting for the right time & being patient enough to get there. Of course, sometimes it’s the right book with a story that they not only love, but can understand too. We’ve read plenty of books that have been fantastic & we’ve all loved, other’s we plodded carefully through because while one or two of us loved them the other did not. Or there’ve been books we’ve started & for one reason or another laid them aside, either for a later time or forever.
So yes, the simple answer is simply that we make time. That time is a required part of our day, a part we love & look forward to. You don’t have to start with an hour a day, you could start with 10 or 15 minutes. Whatever time you have. You don’t have to start in the morning if that’s inconvenient for you, but it’s less likely to be forgotten that way. You won’t be tired & worn out either.
Don’t think just because it’s an audio book it’s not time together reading! Our family loves audio books. Before the boys were old enough to appreciate them Mr S & I use to check a few out of the library each week & once the children were tucked into bed we’d stay up listening to the stories.
We still listen to audio books with our children. In the car, in the house, while out camping, & everywhere in between. A well written book can be brought to life with a great narrator! One of our top notch favourite narrators is Jim Dale, but there are many more that are great to listen to as well.
I also think, personally, that listening to well narrated audio books only helps to encourage the way you read a book aloud! You get into the habit of hearing different voices for different characters, it doesn’t matter if your’e reading narration or dialogue you tend to try & help inflict the feelings of the story with what you’re reading.
Interestingly enough, my boys have picked that up too. They couldn’t wait to pass around a recent chapter book we were rereading for the third or fourth time just so they could read parts of it aloud, preferably pieces with dialogue so they could make up voices to fit the characters!
For us, it’s been a long, but fun, traveled road to get to where we are. Reading & story telling are simply a part of our family. When we stay away from home, be it in a tent or a hotel room, my children beg for a story. Sometimes I’ve forgotten to bring whatever our current book is & we’ve plunged head long into crazy stories of our own making. Long walks are often filled with story telling, be it well known stories we’ve heard many times or the stories we make up on a whim.

The next step, for us, is to get the kids writing. The more stories my boys listen to the more eager they become to write their own. They’ve spent many dutiful afternoons writing their own comic books, because after all there’s much less dialogue to fill in there! Recently, though, they’ve expanded to a spiral notebook & are working away at writing their own little stories.
What impresses me the most about what they are doing isn’t just the fact that they’ve chosen to write it on their own, but the content that is in the notebooks. Morgan’s story is full of so many amazingly wonderful words that are exciting to read. He doesn’t use the word said every time someone speaks. He uses whispered, screamed, shouted, thought, & so on. He’s not at all frightened to use words that he’s heard read to him over & over again.
It’s honestly just another side effect of reading. Even as preschoolers the boys have had quite the vocabulary on them, & not just in speech but also in knowledge. I will never forget Morgan’s soccer coach being floored because Morgan not only knew the word reflection but could use it correctly in a sentence & then went a step further to explain it to the entire group of 3 year olds that were suppose to be playing a game of soccer. 
Jayden once asked Mr S for a refreshment. Once Mr S got over laughing at the request he said, “Would you like a biscuit?” & Jayden’s prompt reply was, “I was hoping for something like a liquid refreshment!” He was 4 at the time. If you were to ask either of the boys where they’d learned the words from they would have most likely shrugged & carried on. Yet, it’s true. They probably have no specific memory for words that they hear often. Reading good books with a brilliant vocabulary helps them build their own awesome vocabulary.
I could go on about the side effects.. the imaginative play it creates, the discussions we’ve had, the need to know more about a certain time, place, or person. All of it, it’s simply side effects from being read to which is why we’ve never hesitated to make time to read.


Nancy said...

You have inspired me to get some audio books from the library for our afternoons!!

Kendra said...

What did you pick Nancy?!

MJ @ Creative Madness Mama said...

Did you make your bin labels or find them somewhere to download?

Kendra said...

I "think" I got them a long time ago frm http://thefirstgradeparade.blogspot.com.au/ .. She might have them for free on her blog {look under printables} or I might have snagged them from Teachers Pay Teachers as a freebie. I honestly can't remember which. :)