Let’s say you are convinced that reading aloud to your children is the best thing you can do for them. You line up your reading selections, you plan your morning time, you are prepared to overcome the obstacles of wiggly bodies and wandering minds. You say that this is exactly the boost your homeschool needs. The first day comes, and you eagerly dive in.
But then you find yourself stumbling over the words. You run into words you can’t even pronounce, let alone understand. After a short time, your voice becomes strained and tired. Hmm… this isn’t as much fun as you thought it would be. Maybe it just won’t work for you. Maybe you are just not cut out for this reading aloud business.
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Audiobooks start to look like a better option. And they do have their place. They certainly are always a better option than screens. They have redeemed many a car ride for our family. But audiobooks also have their drawbacks, particularly during Morning Time. For one thing, you will be sorely tempted to “do something else productive”—or not-so-productive (*cough* social media *cough*). Besides, reading aloud to your children has benefits that just are not matched by audiobooks. Here are a few to keep you motivated.
Read-aloud benefits for mom
Reading aloud makes you better at reading aloud. Reading aloud is a skill that requires perseverance and practice. Mom, your faltering tongue gives you a window into the world of that child whose fingers seem to always stumble over the keys or fumble the ball. And what do you tell that child? “Keep at it! You’ll get better! Practice makes proficient!” Yep. And that’s what I’m here to tell you. Begin with shorter sessions, but keep going. Learn how to pronounce challenging words. (I’ll give you some tips at the end of this post.) Keep a glass of water nearby. Your voice will get stronger, and the words will flow more smoothly. You will become adept at reading aloud. You may even enjoy your newfound skill so much that you eagerly look for opportunities to bless others with it.
Reading aloud makes you a better reader. You comprehend more because you are forced to slow down, to pay attention to the content, and to avoid skimming. Of course, from time to time, your mind will wander even as you read aloud. But you will find it is pretty hard to do that for a prolonged period. Your own reading repertoire will grow by leaps and bounds; your Goodreads list will flourish. And you will read more far widely than you might if you are just reading within your preferred genres.
Reading aloud makes you a better speaker and writer. Reading aloud means you are listening as well. If fine literature and poetry bear the fruit of beautiful language patterns that naturally flow from lip and pen in your children, it follows that it will bear the same fruit in your own life. As a bonus, your growing skill in reading aloud is likely to be matched by growing skill in articulating ideas confidently and clearly.
Reading aloud indelibly imprints your voice on your children’s hearts. Forever, they will associate the goodness of books and the cozy joys of family reading time with your voice, your face, your expressions. And no matter how you think you look, your children think you are beautiful.
A few tips to help you build your read-aloud skills
Pronunciation — If you were a kid who read a lot on your own, you probably came up with plenty of “creative” pronunciations. (Ask me how I know!) For me, many corrections to those came in college—sometimes in quite embarrassing ways. A somewhat less painful way to correct your pronunciation is to listen regularly to worthwhile audiobooks, lectures, and podcasts. This is a good reason for your kids to listen to such things also, but NOT to the exclusion of you reading to them.
Names and Places — These can present a big challenge, especially if they are archaic or foreign to you. Before you begin a new book, do a quick scan to note any unfamiliar names and places. Before I got around to studying a bit of Latin and Greek, I was totally stumped by those ancient names. Learning a few simple rules helped: all the vowels are usually pronounced separately, the silent final e is not a thing, and the accent is always on the second or third syllable from the end.
Here is a pronunciation list —at one point I cut and pasted a list like this on cardstock as a bookmark for quick reference.
Poetry — There are just a few simple things to remember. First rule: Don’t pause at the end of a line unless there is a punctuation mark. This is hard, as we just naturally want to do it, particularly if the lines rhyme, but make yourself push through! If your children are also looking at a copy of the poem, ask them to remind you if you forget. (My kids have always been very happy to point out my mistakes.) Second rule: Do pause for punctuation, even in the middle of a line. A comma gets a short pause; a semicolon, colon, or dash gets a bit longer; a period gets a full stop. These two rules will help you avoid one of the the worst crimes we perpetrate on a poem—reading it in a sing-song way.
Drama and “Voices” — If you love drama and you love doing “voices,” go for it! But do not feel obligated, especially if you find it a burden (as I do). The benefits are just as big to your children if that is not your style.
Nota Bene: Much of the above can also be said of having your children read aloud during Morning Time as well. But that is another post for another day!
- How moms benefit from read-alouds (they’re not just good for kids!) - February 27, 2017