When you are a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, reading is one of the most important skills that you should teach and learn. But how do you get the kids excited about reading when they are still struggling through the beginning stages? Or if they aren’t old enough to read yet?
You can have a family read-aloud challenge!
When Reading Is Not Intentional
I, personally, LOVE to read. You can ask my family and friends (and even ex-classmates at school). I have always had a book around. In fact, I’m even participating in a Back to the Classics reading challenge (among others) for myself this year. And one of my greatest dreams was to have a family that felt the same way.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I had this vision of us snuggled up on the sofa together, reading. It was so vivid. And I did everything I could to make that happen. I read to V while she was still incubating.
After her birth, I continued to read nightly. And continued it up until she learned to read by herself at the age of six. By then, I had three other siblings who took a lot of time away from her. I was exhausted after six years of barely sleeping and now had to stay up at night to prepare for V’s schoolwork each day. Reading books at night often took a backseat to all the other chores I needed to keep up with.
Of course, the kids were still given reading time in bed every night before lights out. But now they had to do it alone. I tried to continue reading as often as possible, but it just wasn’t easy. I hadn’t made it a priority so it was often the first thing to go when the time was running out at the end of the day. This was made doubly difficult by the fact that we tried to read each night in both French and English.
Read Aloud Revival
This continued for more than a year. It is so easy to put things like this aside. As each child grew older, rather than having more time at night to read, I found that I had less. We started having activities nearly every night. This meant we weren’t getting home until after 6 pm. Then it was a quick dinner, and the bedtime routine would begin.
The kids needed to be in bed before 9 pm so we had little time to do everything. They could choose between reading aloud or reading alone. Since read alone time was often needed to calm them enough to sleep, read aloud was out. And it hurt. I went to bed every night regretting that another chapter was left unfinished.
Then I came across a website. Read Aloud Revival. Here was a blog and podcast about a family of six kids, all homeschooled, who made reading aloud a priority. And it was the very vision of the dream I’d had when pregnant. I started believing again that it could be possible.
Even just the free access to the website was enough to put that spark back into my desire to read with my kids.
Eventually, I joined the membership because I knew how important it was for us to make this a more consistent practice. And I love the group there. There is always so much going on. And even if we only participate in a fraction of the events, we are still doing more than before.
Which brings me to this month’s challenge.
Though I had started being more intentional with reading aloud to my children on a pretty regular basis, I was still missing at least half the week. Those late weeknights with activities kept sneaking up on me. Even though I knew they were there.
Then we got the word about our yearly inspection to take place just before Christmas. Reading aloud was pushed back again. Worse, I wasn’t even being consistent with listening to my oldest daughter’s reading. She was only 8 so she still needed a lot of guidance. Especially with newer and bigger words.
When it was announced that there would be a Read-Aloud Challenge for the month of January, I jumped at the chance to participate. I’m a recovering Type-A personality and I love checking boxes. This was a great opportunity to get back on track and mark a few boxes in the meantime just for fun.
I downloaded the packet and printed a calendar for each child and myself. Then I explained the concept to my kids. I expected a little resistance from the just-beginning-to-read 6yo and the not-yet-reading 5yo. They often compare themselves jealously against the one sister who can read.
The toddler is on board with everything. She just loves to participate in everything we do.
I explained that the pre-reader just had to describe his books to me or tell me whatever story he wanted from the pictures. The new reader could use her reading lessons. The oldest could choose any book she chose. And I would join by reading the nightly devotions and a little story every night. And they didn’t have to read to me. They could read to anyone in the family, including the dog.
How It Went
I was pleasantly surprised at the excitement they all displayed. In fact, they woke me early January 1st to get started. This after staying up until midnight to ring in the New Year. Each one had their book all ready and we took off.
Since it was a vacation when we started, it was fairly easy to get into the groove. Sometimes we’d read first thing in the morning. Sometimes we’d wait until just before bedtime. I was a bit concerned when their father went back to work on the 7th. But we kept up with it.
We have now completed two years of this challenge. They are still just as excited each day to read to me.
There have been some unexpected but wonderful surprises to this challenge.
- The kids only want to read to me. They consider this a special event that they want to share with their mother.
- It has been a great way for me to have quality alone time with each kid every day. Something that is not easy to do with our busy schedule.
- The oldest has chosen to read in both English and French (depending on the book she has chosen to read for the day).
- The just-reading 6yo has gotten more comfortable with her reading skills and I can see her confidence growing every day.
- The not-yet-reading 5yo is starting to show excitement to get started on his own reading lessons.
- The toddler has begun reading to everything and everyone around her in that cute little minion language she uses.
- And Daddy has unexpectedly gotten on board and started reading every night as well to each child. Even when he has come home late from work and is tired.
This was just the kickstart we needed to get back on track with our reading aloud. I highly recommend trying a challenge like this if ever you feel like your reading has gotten off track.
It’s a little late if you would like to join in this particular challenge. But that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. On the contrary, you can start anytime. Just grab a calendar, grab a book, and get going.
To help you and your family keep track of the books you are reading, I’ve created a Reading Log in both full size and half size. You can find this on the Freebies page.