The Benefits of Reading Aloud

Ahh…reading aloud to our children, one of our family’s most treasured homeschool memories!

Anyone who has ever done a Once-a-Week Unit Study knows the importance we place on reading aloud to children. No matter how young or old the child, read-alouds play an essential role in each and every one of Homeschool Legacy’s unit studies.

Charlotte Mason influenced us greatly in this area. A British educator, Charlotte Mason lived at the turn of the twentieth century and devoted her life to improving children’s education. One method she is perhaps best noted for is her use of what she called “living books.” Unlike textbooks, which she dismissed as “twaddle,” Charlotte Mason believed “living books” were far superior and key to a quality education.

“Twaddle,” she observed, was written merely by corporate committees, whereas “living books,” were written by people with a love and passion for the subject, a command of the English language, and the ability to write in an engaging way. These traits, she recognized, were essential in making learning come alive for children and sparking a genuine love for learning.

Thank you Charlotte Mason! We couldn’t agree more. Discovering this method changed our whole outlook on education. From then on, we provided our boys with “living books” whenever possible. Textbooks served their purpose when it came to certain subjects.  But, it was beautiful “living books” which became the dominant choice for our home school, and that included reading great classics and award-winning literature aloud to our sons.

Reading aloud is beneficial on so many levels. It allows you the opportunity to expose your children to great literature, expands their vocabulary, gives you an excuse to cuddle up with your kids during school hours, opens doors for conversation, builds relationships and precious memories, and even provides the added benefit of subconsciously teaching your children how to improve their own writing. Our boys, now college graduates, insist to this day that it was the great literature they were exposed to that made them the great writers they both are today.

Typically, our slated read-aloud occurred around 3:00 every afternoon. That was the magic hour when Mom clocked out for the day. Anything planned that didn’t get done was simply rolled over to the next day. By 3:00, I was tired and my kids had worked hard enough. It was time to cuddle up on the couch with a great book…which, of course, usually pertained to our unit study! We normally read for about an hour. But, we often read during lunch and, if Dad wasn’t inventing stories for them with puppets, we read at bedtime too. While the kids frequently begged for one more chapter I would often stop smack-dab in the middle of an exciting part, creating a cliff-hanger, making them hunger all the more for what would happen next.

As school days sometimes go, there was one day in particular that didn’t go exactly as planned. It began as a frosty, winter morning. I had a full schedule planned. In the wee hours of the morning, my husband had packed the wood stove to warm our not-so-insulated, 1862 farmhouse. Feeling a bit chilled, the boys and I gathered around the wood stove. To make good use of our time, I decided to read to them then, rather than waiting ’til afternoon. And so, we began reading Twenty and Ten, by Claire Huchet (a story that takes place during WWII). But, after every chapter the boys would plead, “Just one more…pleeease!,” and the book was so good I just couldn’t resist! Do you know we ended up spending the entire day, by the wood stove, reading that whole book? At first glance, you might think we had wasted our entire school day, but without picking up a single textbook, our sons had learned about great literature, they expanded their vocabulary skills and learned about world history, they learned about God’s grace and mercy, and they also learned about character and the courageous choices ordinary people can make in the midst of extraordinary circumstances. What’s more, we built precious family memories and sweetened our relationships…and after all, isn’t that what homeschooling is really all about?

I recently met a woman at a homeschool conference who was considering homeschooling her children. When I shared with her the read-aloud aspect of Once-a-Week Unit Studies she explained her children were already good readers. She questioned why she would bother wasting her time (as she put it) when she could just hand them a book and go do laundry. I patiently explained her children would of course be reading on their own, but there were other great books their family could enjoy together. I listed the relational, literary, communication, vocabulary and character building benefits of read-alouds, but no matter. She simply just could not grasp their value. As she walked away, I couldn’t help but feel sad for all she would miss out on with her children… and for all they would miss out on with her.

Yes. Our read-aloud moments are some of our family’s most treasured homeschool memories, one we’re grateful we didn’t miss. Would we do it any differently had we the chance to do it again? Not on your life!