Obviously, reading chapter books aloud isn't just for homeschooling families! But it's a great way to foster literacy so I'm including it as part of this series. Getting started can seem daunting, so today I'm sharing 5 strategies for success:
At what age do I start? This varies of course for each child, but in my experience, around age 4 is a good time. You can certainly start earlier if you like, but in that case I recommend it as a secondary activity (I hate to call it background noise, but that's sort of what I mean) while the child is quietly engaged in doing something else. Don't expect the child to sit still for long periods of time in the beginning. Start with short reading sessions at first and work up to longer ones as the child's attention span grows over time.
What time of day is best? Again, this varies with each child. Currently our routine is to read aloud at bedtime as the children are winding down for sleep, but in the past we've also had success reading first thing in the morning (snuggled up in bed together), over breakfast, or during quiet time in the afternoon. Experiment with different times of day to see what works best for you and your child.
What should I start with--any suggestions? In the beginning I recommend books with short chapters and lots of illustrations. Books with a bit of humor are good too. To that end, I recommend works by Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, and E.B. White as first read-aloud chapter books, but any book/author that captures your child's attention will do.
Keep in mind when making your selections that it's okay to take into account your own preferences as well. Slogging through a book with a too-precious storyline or a writing style that makes you cringe just because your child liked the artwork on the cover isn't conducive to a successful long-term read-aloud experience.
What about reading aloud with older children? Reading aloud as a family can be a great experience with children of any age! I remember reading aloud on long car trips as a teenager, and my husband still enjoys being read to while he drives. Of course the trick is when you have multiple children of different ages and at varying comprehension levels--what then? In that case, just choose any book that is engaging and well-written, even if some of the language is beyond a younger child's understanding. He/she will still be able to follow most of the plot, and at the same time be exposed to complex speech and sentence structure that sets the stage for future literacy.
What if I fail? You probably will sometimes. We're all busy families. We don't always have time to read aloud. And even when we do, some reading sessions will inevitably go more smoothly than others. The important thing is to keep trying. Be consistent and persisent, and you will have success!
Now it's your turn. What suggestions do you have for reading chapter books aloud with children? Any experience, wisdom, and/or book recommendations to share? Please do!