My children and I enjoy little more than traveling the globe; discovering new sights and sounds and learning about new cultures. Together, we’ve visited Egypt, Africa, the Orient, Mexico, England and more. No, we’re not rich. Nor do we ever have to deal with busy airports, luggage restrictions, or dirty hotel rooms. “How?” you may ask. We do our traveling through books and I hope to encourage you to do the same with your children.
While many of us read aloud to our children when they are young, we often let the habit drop as they grow older and begin reading on their own. I urge you not to do this. By continuing to read aloud to and with your children you create a shared culture and experience that becomes unique to your family. It enriches you as a whole rather than just as individuals.
As you learn life lessons and admire the character qualities of those you read about, they become a part of your unique family tapestry. For example, Nat Bowditch, in the excellent read, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, overcomes obstacle after obstacle to eventually achieve more than he ever dreamed. In this sailing story, when a ship was becalmed for an extended period of time, the crew was forced to physically row the massive vessel, also known as “sailing by ash breeze” (the oars were made of ash). In our home we’ve adopted the phrase to encourage one another. When confronted with an an endeavor that is uncharacteristically difficult you’re likely to hear one of us say, “Is it time to row by ash breeze?” It may not solve the problem, but it brings a smile and reminds us of what can be accomplished with a bit of hard work and perseverance.
I frequently have homeschooling moms ask for book recommendations for their middle and high school children. And, while I’m happy to offer them, I’m saddened that they will miss out on the experience of reading them with their kids. While children most certainly need to read on their own, I highly recommend reserving some excellent books as family read-alouds. A truly good book can be enjoyed by nearly all ages.
By enjoying such a book together you can travel to new destinations, experience exciting adventures, and meet fascinating individuals, as a family and all from the comfort of your living room. If you’re like us, you’ll also end up with a list of amazing places you can’t wait to see “for real”. For example, my daughter and I have dreamed of visiting the Blue Grotto in person ever since reading Red Sails to Capri.
Another plus to enjoying quality literature together is that your children learn what good writing sounds like. I experienced two examples of this just yesterday. As I began reading from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, my 10 year old commented, “I really like that sentence, can you read it again?”
“Spring. It seeped unseen into the waiting red earth in early March, softening the hard ground for the coming plow and awakening life that had lain gently sleeping through the cold winter.”
Now, that’s a sentence! (Well, two sentences.) But the fact that my ten-year-old BOY can notice and take pleasure in such writing is a gift, indeed. Later in the day, after a trip to the library, my 12 year old came into the room holding a book he’d chosen. “I like the story, but the writing is just not very good. I don’t think I can read this. It’s too annoying.” At relatively young ages, both boys are developing discriminating literary tastes, simply by being exposed to quality literature.
If you’re not sure where to start check out the 1000 Good Book List. Here you’ll find quality books categorized by age. I become convinced of the value of read-alouds when we were using Sonlight curriculum. Even if you don’t use their curriculum, you can choose most any of their read-alouds and know you won’t go wrong. You can check out Sonlight’s list by grade or peruse this nicely categorized list.
In fact, both the books I mentioned above were read as part of Sonlight. Carry On, Mr. Bowditch is part of their grade 4 curriculum, as is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, the book we’re currently reading. As I mentioned before, don’t be put off by a book being labeled as “grade 4″. A truly good book will be enjoyed by the entire family. In fact, I recently loaned Carry On, Mr. Bowditch to a gentleman in our church who loves sailing and he couldn’t put it down!
Summer is the perfect time to catch up on read-alouds you may not have had time for during the regular school year. Try it ~ I bet you’ll like it!