A Main Course of Reading Out Loud

This morning we took a trip into town. While Imogen and Charlotte had piano lessons, the younger girls and I made the most of our waiting time, and did some grocery shopping. It was gone 11 am before we arrived back home. We carted all the shopping bags into the house and unpacked them, before putting on the kettle. A few minutes later, I sank with relief onto the sofa with my cup of coffee.

“Do you want to hear more of The Wide Horizon?” I asked. Sophie and Gemma-Rose smiled and nodded. It was a silly question. Of course they wanted to hear the next part of the story. They love listening to me read.

I think back to our early days of homeschooling. I can see Felicity, Duncan and Callum crowded around me as I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

“One more chapter, pleeease, Mum!” they would beg.

“When you’ve done some maths,” I’d reply.

I had discovered that my children were quite willing to do the things on my essential learning list if I bribed them with another chapter of our current book. So after every task accomplished, I’d read out loud. We got through a lot of books.

I guess I treated reading out loud as the dessert of education rather than the main course. If my children got through the ‘important’ meaty stuff like maths and spelling (the things I wanted them to do), they were rewarded with the sweet course.

These days we have dessert for breakfast… and lunch… and dinner. I have decided that reading together is the important stuff. Important stuff doesn’t have to be boring and hard work and involve a lot of groans and grumbling. It can be pleasurable and fun. And I really believe that children learn more from sharing books than they do from filling in a workbook, or completing any task that their hearts aren’t really involved with.

So this morning, we didn’t start with something like maths (though my girls do enjoy that too). No. We headed straight for one of our current read-aloud books. Actually we unexpectedly did some maths straight after our chapter. I noticed we were 75% of the way through the Kindle book, so we had an impromptu discussion about percentages and fractions.

Gemma-Rose sighed. “Three-quarters of the way through the book! There’s not much of the story left. I don’t want it to end!”

I reminded the girls that there is a third book in this Texas Panhandle series, and they cheered up. That’s the good thing about books. There’s always another excellent one waiting to be read… and enjoyed… and discussed… and thought about… and reread. For of course, a really good book needs to be read more than once.

So what makes a really good book? Gemma-Rose will tell you it has to have a good story line and not be full of dates. Sophie will say the book needs interesting characters, people you care about.

“We like The Wide Horizon because we like learning about different things like dug-out houses and pie suppers.”

“But the story can’t just be facts. It has to be exciting and fast moving and involving.”

And there’s one more thing I can add about a good book, especially one that is going to be shared: it has to be a story that both children and mothers will enjoy. We all have to feel excited as I open the book and begin reading, otherwise reading out loud turns into a chore.

My friend Karla’s daughter recommended the Texas Panhandle series by Loula Grace Erdman. There are three books:

You will already have guessed we love them.

It’s nearly afternoon tea time. A cup of coffee and another chapter of The Wide Horizon? Sounds good!

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    • Vicky
    • September 18, 2012

    I agree with you, Sue. I think read alouds, and being well-read, form the basis of a good education. And, it's fun and interesting, too. In our house, Maths is mostly informal during the younger years but we're finding that this is better preparation for high school Maths, rather than struggling through abstract concepts too early.

    God bless:-)

    1. Reply


      I love reading out loud and the girls love listening. There is something special about sharing a book, isn't there? We talk about what we've read after each chapter and I guess, we feel the story belongs to all of us. Growing up I can't remember doing much listening. Maybe because of this, I am not a good listener. But I am sure it's a good skill to have.

      You said that maths is mostly informal during your children's younger years. Did you decide not to use a maths workbook with your children, as part of your core education? I'd love to hear more about what you're doing. You've got me thinking about maths again. I might write another maths post!

      • Vicky
      • September 19, 2012

      Sue, the older children use a textbook and the younger ones do a page of Maths, every now and then. That's enough to trigger questioning and see what they understand. It doesn't look impressive, at all, but it seems to be working well and I'm past trying to meet expectations that don't suit us.

    2. Reply


      Thanks for sharing your maths! I think you've hit the nail on the head: we have to do what suits our children's needs and not do things just to fulfil other people's expectations. That is a great point!

      God bless!

  1. Reply

    So glad you like the Texas Panhandle Series! I have ONE child who hates books. Even Read-alouds! While everyone else begs another chapter she GROANS if I say yes…it saddens me, and I fear she will never love good books…She tends to be contrary- loving what we dislike and hating what we like.Not in everything, but in most things. I keep trying, though- that's what moms DO!

    Have you gotten any Hilda Van Stockum books yet?( The Mitchells, Bantry Bay) What about Arthur Ransom? (Swallows and Amazons)

    1. Reply


      I guess it is hard to understand why children don't have the same loves and interests as we do. Maybe your daughter just hasn't found the right type of book yet. Or maybe, as you say, she is just being contrary and will turn to reading if you ignore it. I wonder if she is a more visual child and might share movies with you instead. It's great fun to watch a good movie and then discuss it together afterwards.

      I have two Hilda van Stockum books waiting to be read! As soon as we've finished this series we will read them. Can't wait!

      Thank you for all your book recommendations, Karla! Sharing books increases the pleasure of reading.

    2. Reply

      We do enjoy movies together…we're quite fond of some very good ones! Both Cartoon and Live action films. What are some of your favorites??? My older daughter and I love the BBC version (6 hrs) of Pride and Prejudice. And We all have enjoyed Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean. Bolt, Up, Despicable Me, How to Train your Dragon. The Secret World of Arriety…The Narnia series of movies, and many more.

    3. Reply


      The older girls and I love Pride and Prejudice. Yes, the BBC version! We also enjoyed the BBC series "Little Dorrit" and have "Bleak House" ready to watch. We started "Downton Abbey" after everyone raved about it. Not sure about the gay character though. The girls aren't comfortable with men trying to kiss men.

      When we watch a movie as a family we usually watch the younger girls' choices. We also like How to Train Your Dragon and Despicable Me. Also, The Princess Bride, Inkheart, Tangled, Brave, Narnia. The older kids like LOR. The Secret World of Arriety sounds good! I'll have to look that one up. Talking of Up, strangely the girls aren't keen on that one. I can't remember why.

      I find it very interesting watching the kids grow up and discover movies their older siblings enjoyed years earlier. The older ones suddenly realise they can share their favourites with a new audience and are keen to have movie nights with their younger sisters.

      Thanks for sharing!

    4. Reply

      We LOVE The Princess Bride!Inkheart and Tangled are on the list too.We love Enchanted, Eragon is pretty good. I'm sure we could think of many more!

    • Kari
    • September 19, 2012

    Sue- We will have to try out the Texas Panhandle series, we are always looking for more great read-alouds. That is my children's favorite part of school too!

    God Bless, Kari

    1. Reply


      I would really recommend this series. I'm so glad Karla told me about them! We have just finished another chapter, and have one more to go before the end of "The Wide Horizon". The girls sat totally captivated while I read. The storyline is excellent but what I really like is the relationships between the characters. A lot to think about. I can't really explain because I will give away the story! Maybe you can tell me about your children's favourite read aloud books.

      God bless!

  2. Reply

    Oh…just thought of another since you like this series so well. "Hattie Big Sky" by Kirby Larson!

    1. Reply


      We finished The Wide Horizon only a few minutes ago. We will buy and download the last book in the series tomorrow. Officially school holidays begin in a few days' time. I asked the girls if we should wait until next term or begin reading the book right away. You can guess their answer!

      A new recommendation! I've noted the title. We could read all day and be perfectly happy! Thank you!

    • Amy R
    • September 23, 2012

    My daughter, the youngest, does not like to be read to anymore. She stopped liking it years ago and it's still a disappointment to me. There are so many books I read to my older children when she was too little to appreciate them…and those books simply have not been part of her life, like they were for her siblings. She doesn't read that much, either.

    Sue, I have a book by Loula Grace Erdman that I was going to give away. Would you like me to send it to you? "Many a Voyage" seems to be a biography of someone I've never heard of. I don't know if it's any good as I have not read it.

    1. Reply


      I discovered many excellent children's books only as an adult, when I read them to my own children. Maybe your daughter will be the same. One day she might change her mind about reading.

      Amy, I would LOVE to have your Loula Grace Erdman book please!! That is, if it doesn't cost too much for you to post it to me. You are so kind!!Thank you very much. Can you tell I am excited??

      God bless you!

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