Your Biggest Read-Aloud Mistake

When she was six, my daughter told me she didn’t want to learn to read because then I might stop reading to her.

Nothing could be further from the truth, but then six-year-olds aren’t known for their logic, are they?

Your Biggest Read Aloud Mistake Feature

Lucky for her it wasn’t too long after that I stumbled upon Andrew Pudewa’s talk, Nurturing Competent Communicators.

(Go get that talk and listen — it’s free and you can thank me later.)

Pudewa postulates a number of great points in that talk, not the least of which is the biggest mistake you may be making when reading aloud to your children. No, it’s not the accents you butcher; they really don’t mind that.

You can listen or read more.

The key is language patterns

The crux of Nurturing Competent Communicators is that children need to be exposed to “reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns.” Let’s think about this for a few minutes. What language does your child hear on a regular basis?

  • Conversations with peers about their favorite video games or each other.
  • Dialogue from the TV shows he might be watching.
  • Lectures and admonishments from you for him to pick up, hurry up, brush his teeth or find his shoes.
  • Knock-knock jokes. Kids are always telling knock-knock jokes.

Sure, there are lessons and the occasional dinner-time conversation, but let’s face it: sophisticated is not how we would describe most of the language our children are exposed to.

That’s where the reading aloud comes in. By reading to our children we are exposing them to those sophisticated language patterns on a regular basis. They internalize them and begin to use the patterns not only in their own conversations, but also in their writing as well.

Yet so many of us feel like we are off the read-aloud hook once our children are able to read for themselves. “Whew!” we express as we wipe the well-earned sweat from our brow. That obligation has passed.

But this is where we go wrong.

Don’t make this vital mistake

This is the time that we should actually be reading to our children more and not less. This is the time their vocabulary is growing, becoming more sophisticated, and their reading level is just not on-par with the quality of what they are able to comprehend.

A seven- or eight-year-old boy might not be able to read The Hobbit on his own, but he is certainly capable of understanding it and benefiting from Tolkien’s use of language in a big way. Why force him to wait until eleven or twelve to get those benefits?

Your children will always be able to understand works above their current reading level. And reading to your teens adds the opportunity for good discussion about tougher subjects in literature as well. So just don’t stop.

Resources for reading aloud

I recently chatted with a group of moms about this very thing over on the Homeschool Snapshots Show on Periscope. The beautiful thing about community is that we can crowd-source ideas together. Below is a collection of the books the community brainstormed during that ‘scope.

These are all recommended read-alouds for children from 5 to 50. The list is ordered from youngest to oldest in recommended reading age — the books at the top for younger children on down to selections for older ones at the bottom.

At the very bottom are audio books by recommended narrators. Not to be missed is the link to The Chronicles of Narnia read free by Dr. Chrissi Hart. Don’t underestimate the value of audio books for building those language patterns as well.

My daughter is now ten and reads to herself quite well these days. I haven’t stopped reading aloud to her, though. We do it multiple times in a day, and she always drifts off to sleep to her favorite audio books.

A knock-knock joke may still be one of her favorite ways to communicate, but I am not worried about those language patterns at all. We’ve got this — one read-aloud at a time.

The Books

 Jenny and the Cat Club: A Collection of Favorite Stories about Jenny Linsky (New York Review Children’s Collection) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz The Growly Books: Begin (Volume 1) The Boxcar Children (The Boxcar Children, No. 1) (Boxcar Children Mysteries) Little Pear (Odyssey Classics (Odyssey Classics)) James and the Giant Peach The Chronicles of Narnia Box Set: The Magician’s Nephew; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The H Owls in the Family Charlie and the Chocolate Factory The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog Winnie-the-Pooh (Puffin Modern Classics) Tales from the Odyssey, Part 1 Tales from the Odyssey, Part 2 Charlotte’s Web (Trophy Newbery) Stuart Little The Indian in the Cupboard The Prairie Thief The Trumpet of the Swan (full color) The Story of Doctor Dolittle The Railway Children (Puffin Classics) Peter Pan Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (Bantam Classics) Five Children and It (Puffin Classics) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Anne of Green Gables The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Shadow Spinner (A Jean Karl Book) The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz [Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition]“> The Wonderful Wizard of Oz [Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition] Little House In The Big Woods Unabr CD Low Price (Little House-the Laura Years) The Lord Of The Rings A. A. Milne’s Pooh Classics Boxed Set Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1)


Best Things Free eBook

This conversation is part of the Ten Best Things You’re Not Doing in Your Homeschool series. Now you can get the Ten Best Things as an ebook absolutely free. Click to get your copy today!





  • Erin Ulrich says:

    Thanks so much for including The Growly Books in your list! We are classical homeschoolers and love reading aloud to our girls. In writing the Growly series, we hoped families would enjoy reading it aloud, so it’s encouraging to see the books mentioned here. 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    I whole-heartedly agree about the audio books. As a kid I was VERY much a reluctant reader. I could read words just fine, my problem was comprehension. I often read a single page 3-4 times before I could move on feeling like I understood most of it. As a result, I hardly ever read a book, not even the required reading at school. Then, in my mid-20s I was introduced to audio books & became addicted. I’ve listened to over 700 books in the 13 years since my first one & actually read dozens more. The audio books somehow did wonders for my reading comprehension. I still read kind of slow, but now I only have to read a page once to understand it. 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    Thanks Pam, I couldn’t agree more about reading aloud, even to older children!! When my older girls still lived at home, I remember reading to the younger kids and suddenly the older ones would just appear. First, they were kind of meandering in and around the room. Then they’d be sitting somewhere within ear shot. Finally, they were all gathered at my feet. It was an ah-ha moment for me.

    At that point, I started to add a read aloud in the evening. Rather than turn on the TV, I’d grab a book, everyone would gather around, and I’d read aloud. Funny thing was, my husband started asking for it. He enjoyed it just as much as the kids, ha 🙂

  • >