Inside: Read-alouds in our homeschools are often dictated by book lists and curriculum. One number caused me to leave the beaten path and completely change how we choose our read-alouds.
Choosing the perfect read-aloud can feel like an awful guessing game. You do your research, get all the best reading treasuries, and listen to “the experts” who give you extensive lists of all the books you should read to your kids.
Some are great, but some of them are dreadful flops. They bore you, for heaven’s sake! No wonder your 7 year-old is yawning and distracted. You can forget having that meaningful conversation and connection you dreamed about.
Still, you persevere with your list, determined to finish every single one just because you should.
Can I tell you something? My year started with that same fierce determination, but after multiple “just ok” books, I realized something had to change. In my search for a new method of choosing read alouds, I came across one number that changed everything.
When Choosing Read-Alouds Changed
THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. AS AN AMAZON ASSOCIATE, I EARN FROM QUALIFYING PURCHASES. YOU CAN READ OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY HERE.
We started our homeschool year with Sonlight, Core B. I loved the idea of a literature-based curriculum. I looked forward to reading the stack of shiny books, carefully selected by veteran homeschoolers.
Charlotte’s Web was a winner – how can you go wrong with Fern and Wilber? But the rest? Each one we loved a little less than the last.
I was disappointed. Weren’t these supposed to be the best books? Engaging, thought-provoking, discussion starting? While I could see why each one made the list, I just wasn’t excited about them and definitely wasn’t jumping up and down to read them with the rest of my kids when the time came.
Then I came across a blog post that completely changed my perspective on reading aloud with my kids. The post quantified how many books were left for us to read in our lifetime.
I’m 32. If I read two books a month for the rest of my life, and I live to the average age of 82, I will only read 1,200 more books.
I decided to apply that number to our homeschool read-alouds.
My daughter is eight-years-old. If we make it through 1.5 chapter books a month (and that’s ambitious, assuming no illness or disruptions from our read-aloud routine), we will only read approximately 160 more books together.
That number assumes we continue reading aloud together every night until she turns 18.
The number, so finite, made me stop and think long and hard about how I approach read-alouds – and my kids’ entire education for that matter.
Five books into my Sonlight list, I finally found the courage to set aside all the books we “should” be reading.
Now, I use just one question to choose our read-alouds.
Do I love this book?
Basically, it boils down to “Do I love it?”, or “Am I excited about it?” I started choosing books I was excited to read with my daughter, ones that I loved growing up or children’s books I reread even now. There are books on my “love it” list that I’ve wanted to read forever, but have never made the time to read, like the Lord of the Rings series.
After I started using that question, read-aloud time totally changed.
I started to look forward to our special time together. I didn’t want to miss it, even when I had a long day and was tired. (We do the majority of our chapter book read-alouds at night because of one rambunctious toddler).
Related: Our Unconventional Big Family Homeschool Schedule
I couldn’t wait to share my love of Harry Potter (I’ve read the series at least three times, and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this illustrated beauty).
I read The Phantom Tollbooth with such enthusiasm, she loved it even though some of it was over her head. Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series was absolutely delightful.
I can’t wait to listen to the Anne of Green Gables audiobook read by Rachel McAdams with her, though I’m trying to hold back on this one until she can fully appreciate it – I would hate to ruin Anne with bad timing!
How to Homeschool with Toddlers
Homeschooling Preschool: 21 Things that Legitimately Count As School
How to Raise Kids who LOVE Math
Why Choose Books You Love As Read-Alouds?
When you’re not excited about a book, it shows. You make excuses to skip it. You drag your feet and read the minimum number of chapters possible.
If you don’t love it and you view it as a chore, how can you expect your child not to have the same perspective?
On the other hand, when you are excited about a book, your enthusiasm is contagious. I talked up Harry Potter for a few weeks as we were finishing Ramona. By the time we started, my daughter was practically jumping up and down with anticipation and excitement.
The way I see it, you could read twenty books because you have to, or five books because you want to.
Which one do you think cultivates a love of reading? And a love of reading is the most important gift you can give your kids.
Have you ever been around two people discussing a book or a movie you haven’t seen? They share a connection that you’re missing, and it’s felt.
Now, what is it like to be one of those two people who gets every insider joke and random reference? It’s awesome. There is such joy in the shared experience that is only yours.
Jim Trelease in The Read-Aloud Handbook emphasizes the value of connecting with our kids through shared stories, and Sarah Mackenzie built a whole podcast and business around the concept.
Reading aloud creates connection and strengthens relationships. Starting when our kids are young will hopefully establish a connection and tradition that will carry us through the potentially turbulent teen years into amazing friendships with our adult children.
We never know how much time we will have with our kids.
There are no guarantees. Why spend it reading books just because we have to?
If you were to die tomorrow, what books do you wish you would have shared with your kids?
Perhaps some of your favorites are classics. Awesome! Some of mine certainly are.
Others are obscure books that one of my teachers happened to pick for a book list one year, and I happened to love.
Want to know a secret? There are some “classics” I’ve never read. All the 1984 references currently flooding the news are totally going over my head, and I’m o.k. with that.
Will I read it one day? Maybe.
But I will read it because I’m curious and want to know what all the fuss is about, not because I have to.
The list of books you’re excited about will look different from mine. And that’s as it should be. Your kids are part of your unique family, and mine are part of ours.
One homeschool family I heard about is intentionally passing on a love of astronomy. They make it a focus of their homeschool studies, and they even named their kids after stars! Homeschooling is an opportunity for even more time and space to pass on your unique passions to your kids.
What children’s books do you love? Which ones are you excited to read just from looking at the cover?
Read those. Your child cannot help but love them, too.
Read Next: 20 Favorite Read-Aloud Chapter Books According to Homeschool Bloggers
I’m SO in agreement with you about passion, connection and time. I’m now a grandmother with a homeschooled grandson and I’ve just spent 10 days reading to him. But little of what we read together is from books I know, and most is linked to his interests, or published more recently. I love discovering new books with him, but if they are falling short of our expectations we scrap them after a couple of sittings. I know I found this harder when I was a mum, but now I am more confident. I see time as more precious, and also don’t want to damage our shared enthusiasm with poor writing. We have found some cracking recently published books and have avidly read whole series of them.
Homeschooling is very relaxed in his house, actually my daughter tends to provide the environment and he mostly teaches himself, but both being read to and reading for himself are well established and both fiction and non-fiction is regarded as vital. With this environment he naturally narrates back the fiction, and makes use of information in the non-fiction.
I think relaxed homeschooling will always mean 101 things as it is more adjusted to family and child(ren)’s needs and has a greater pragmatic element, but parents may still be drawn to certain educational philosophies that colour their meaning of relaxed.
I reckon you’re doing a great job as mum to all your children. I think apparent chaos, and frequent interruption are most often the stuff of family life with very young children and an important part of education for all of them. They will learn to balance times of focusing and multi-tasking, and will learn to share their time between their own interests and their commitments in a family. May you all continue to thrive!
I knew nothing about Charlotte Mason or narration before I read your other post about it just before this. But we read and sing and act out all the time, and both my girls do “narration” all the time, I just didn’t know it- I share my excitement with others about what I’m passionate about, so I just thought it was totally just a part of life. I love your comment about your family being unique because you are unique and your kids are unique, so put into homeschooling what you and your kids and family loves. We actually do Sonlight and love it and one of my favorite things are the books we read for read aloud connect with the books we read for history and my 7 year old quickly shares about the similarities before I even have to ask questions. Also, I have a theater background- love it so much (I even went to a NYU Tisch film summer high school program – some of my best memories. So We’ve been taking our girls to age appropriate local plays (Colorado has so many relatively inexpensive theater shows). My 7 year old has seen a production of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. We all went to an opera production of Cinderella. The girls loved those and would talk about them ALL the time. And then I introduced my 7 year old daughter to more “non kiddy” musicals. Our local Christian Highschool put on a performance of Les Miserable (it was highschool, so it’s cleaner than the original). She came home and told her Dad and her little sister ALL about it- she even sang the songs so much that we bought the soundtrack. We talked about the real history that is the backdrop to the play and my oldest now talks all the time about France and wanting to go there! Now both my girls know almost every single word, song, storyline and characters- EVEN my 3 year old who never even saw the play! We saw it 2 months ago and they sing it non stop and act it out along with dance moves ALL the time. My 7 year old has told all her friends about it too! My husband and I were starting to get annoyed of it even though it’s one of our favorites (hey it’s better than the Frozen stage). I definitely need to be a better active listener when they are sharing even when it’s continuous! Two weeks ago we saw the Greatest Showman and oh my goodness were they captivated. Starting in the car ride home, they both retold the story in such detail. Of course we had to buy the soundtrack and it’s literally all the time. Again singing, dancing, acting, and talking about it. Even when they are playing with their stuffed animals, baby dolls, lego action figures they are called Fontaine, Cosette, Jean Van John, Anne, Philip, and so on. (were all about a lot of creative play over here). They even have recgonized without me connecting the dots that Jean Van John and P.T. Barnum are the same voice!! It is SO fun! We’re gonna borrow from the library Sound of Music and Newsies next, they are two of my favorite movies/plays/soundtracks – so thank you for your great reminder that they might not love them so don’t force it on them- that’s so good! We are a big “singing family” like we sing all the time and the girls know everything by heart quickly and sing frequently – both song songs and ones we’ve made up. Also, my 7 year old will in very detail talk about bible stories she learned at church or we’ve read at home. And she’s so passionate about them! And we’ll go to the library and let the girls pick out books they want to read as well as have them choose a topic they want to learn about. One day My 7 year old said she wanted to learn about trains and my 3 year old about rabbits and I needed help finding where they were and a librarian helped and as each girl talked about their excitement about trains and rabbits and got literally like 10 books each (and we read everyone together over the next 3 weeks), the librarian was amazed and asked how old they both were! Kids love learning about things they love, I so agree! As you can tell how detail orientated and verbose I am ?, you can just imagine both my girls telling everyone all about the favorite things they are learning about – and they do! Awesome post! Thank you for sharing!
I just read this post for the second time and now have it saved, thank you! As a Charlotte Mason leaning homeschool mom who reads over all the book lists, I feel so pressured to read all the books, even ones I don’t care for! I need to remember this, and not miss out on sharing my favorites.
Absolutely – don’t miss sharing your favorites!