February 28, 2004

Reading to our kids

I often get asked how we read so much with so many small children and do they really listen? On the average day we listen to about 10 books a day (usually 4 non-fiction and 6 storybooks though this varies). So I sat down to try to think about how we do it. We have three usual reading times: first thing in the morning, before or after nap, and in the late afternoon before dinner. At those times each child gets to pick one book and then I pick one or two (so we are reading 3-4 books at each time). When they get to pick books they often pick their favorites from their rooms or the bookshelves - I don't care if those are from the letter of the week - though my choice almost always is. I keep all the books from the library and books from our own collection that correspond with the letter of the week in a special box near where we read and the kids can ask at any time to read from those books and I almost always say yes. After we have read a book I don't think they will want to read again I record the title on our reading list (I often miss titles believe it or not) and then put in our library returns bag. We also usually read chapter books at night or sometimes during quiet/naptime. And of course there are the books I use during "lessons" though our lessons often occur during our reading time.

A friend was over yesterday and she was shocked at how many books we check out of the library at a time and reminded me that I am tying up that many books at a time. My response was that we read these in one week and usually always return them the next week, sometimes I hold some for two weeks. We just read alot and I feel that is what the library is there for. We try to only take one book on a subject so there are others there and we have more variety.

I have finally settled into a system at the library. While the kids play and browse I go through the non-fiction section and am sure to grab atleast one book on the following subjects: an artist, a composer (or musician), a scientist, inventor or explorer, a politician or famous person, a location (country, continent, state), a sport or hobby, an animal or creature, a science concept, a historical event or place, and a biblical story (though we have many of these resources at home already), and when appropriate an upcoming holiday, month or season. I usually grab a poetry or short story collection that also coincides with our letter of the upcoming week. Then I browse the fiction bins for storybooks on the subjects I have picked up or just that relate to the letter in some way. Often I choose a children's illustrator or author to focus on as well. For instance next week when we do C we will look at Eric Carle. Then we check out and I keep the books for next week in the suitcase until Monday morning when I switch out the books from the previous week (that have not yet been returned) and put the books where the kids can choose from them.

Yes my children do listen to these books. Rhiannon probably feels I don't read to her enough believe it or not. Ciaran sometimes tires of it but always plays nearby and I believe is still listening. Occasionally if a book we have picked up is too advanced for them (sometimes I do this for pictures and to summarize material) we will just talk about it and look at it instead of reading it. Sirah is getting a little more challenging now. She used to just nurse and sleep through them, then she sat on my lap, now she wants to grab more. I find sitting on the floor and giving her books of her own to play with helps as does interspersing little board books that we read to her.

Reading is just an integral part of our family's days (sometimes we slack on the weekends when we follow a different schedule) and it is a part my children love. We have read to them since day one, books for them, books they listen to because of their siblings and things we are reading adults (when not inappropriate) Rhiannon needs to read every day from her phonics books, this is often to one of her siblings and all the children have quiet time where they look at their books. Rhiannon would bring every book into her bed if we would let her to avoid bed - but we only allow them their bibles in bed (picture ones) except on occasion when we allow an extra book or two.

The kids see us read all the time and they go to the library and are surrounded by books in our home library, their schoolroom shelves and the books strewn throughout the house. So I guess it is hard to explain - it truly isn't like I set a quota for us to meet each week - it just ends up that we read a lot. There are days where we read less and days we read 20 books - but all in all it is just the way we live. The kids love learning and hearing stories - they create their imaginary play from the stories they hear and ask for their favorites over and over again. We listen to books on tape in the car (currently Black Beauty) and Rhiannon carries around a little tape deck that goes through batteries like crazy because she listens to the various Chronicles of Narnia books by CS Lewis (unabridged) throughout the week over and over again. When we finish those we will pick another literature series. I guess reading is not something we work at - it is something all the members of our house truly enjoys.


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