At Home,  Homeschool

Read Aloud

Because of the crazy times, lots of people are suddenly home with their young children for extended and unexpected periods of time. I’m writing up a few general ideas I’ve learned over the years of being at home with one, two, three, and now four children. 

General idea number two…

Read Aloud. 

You don’t have textbooks, curriculum, flashcards, or workbooks. But you have a something wildly more powerful than any of that. Something that will increase their vocabulary, strengthen their listening comprehension, give you a shared language of characters, and all but guarantee that they will love books as adult. And if they love books, then they love learning, and (dusts hands) that’s the best it can get.

To begin, plan to read aloud for one hour. But aspire to two hours. You will get there sooner than you think. Pick a few books to move between within that hour. Books with long words and dense story lines that one can listen to while sprawled on the floor, staring at the cracks in the ceiling.

Books like Anne of Green Gables, Birchbark House, The Hobbit, Chronicles of Narnia, The Laura Ingalls Series, The Penderwicks, Twenty-One Balloons, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, Dr. Dolittle, and My Father’s Dragon.*

After you read one chapter, ask “Should I read another chapter?” And they will likely surprise both of you by shouting,”Yes!”

But if they say no, move on to the next book and read a chapter of that. If you have a book of poetry, or Winnie-the-Pooh which is basically poetry,` read a few pages of that. If you have something really dense, like actual history like The Story of the World or Our Island Story, read one chapter and don’t expect more.

I like to read in the morning, right after breakfast. Morning energy is often a little wild, creative but not directed quite yet, and very cuddly. For whatever reason, in the morning, it’s easiest for all ages to find a comfortable place to sit and to listen for a few hours. After an hour or two, I get up and say something like, “Ho! I have to start lunch,” and walk off and the rest of the day begins.

If you have a child younger than age four in your group, there are a few things you can do to include them. 1: Read several illustrated books of their choice to begin with. Read to them first. 2: Provide something for them to do nearby while you read aloud, like markers and paper, a puzzle, magnatiles. They’ll do it for a little while and likely wander off. You will have to remind them not to interrupt you. They will forget, of course, but they will begin to get it, over time.

* We’ve read all of the books listed above to children ages five and older, and they loved them. But lighter options that are great for reading aloud (I think of these as afternoon books) include the original Boxcar Children (any book between #1-20) and the older American Girl series books: Samantha, Kirsten, Addy, Molly, Felicity. There are loads of book lists online, this is an educational approach you can really lean into. If you need more ideas, let me know.


  • Elizabeth Hitron

    This is brilliant. I am loving this series! Another option if your voice is getting hoarse- the (free!) Libby app which allows you to download library audiobooks. As a family, we are totally hooked. We listen in the car and sometimes at home in front of the fire coloring, knitting, etc.

    • Rachael

      Yes! I think I’ll do a separate audiobook post. I love many of them, but I do feel they are different than a parent reading aloud. Less dialog in a way? But totally agree on Libby!

      • Liz

        Believe it or not, the Ramona series holds up remarkably well. The ones narrated by Stockard Channing as well as the Henry Huggins books narrated by Neil Patrick Harris are wonderful. Anything narrated by Jayne Entwistle is a treat, like The War that Saved my Life.

      • Kate F.

        If you have a range of ages to entertain, Stockard Channing’s performance of the entire Ramona Quimby series is 14 hours long and absolutely fantastic. But the best audiobook ever is E.B. White reading Charlotte’s Web!

      • Beth

        Our top-favorite narrator/book combination is Misty of Chincoteague narrated by Edward Herrmann. Old Yeller narrated by Peter Francis James is also excellent!

      • Laurie

        We loved E. B. White reading Trumpet of the Swan. And we have just finished The Wind in the Willows read by Andrew Wincott. It was excellently done!

        • Rachael

          Thank you! I’m reading Wind in the Willows aloud right now, but I would love to hear it again. So many wonderful sentences.

  • Michelle Bengson

    Please! More, more, more in this series. ?? I admire and cheerish your insights. They inspire me without overwhelming me. Thank you for writing, thank you for sharing, thank you for teaching.

  • Susan Magnolia

    My homeschooling daughter is eight and we have recently enjoyed the stories of the Melendy family. First listened to the second book of the series through an audio book called the “Four Story Mistake.” Picked up the first one called “the Saturdays” our last day the library was open. It is smartly written and full of detail. The books are by Elizabeth Enright.

    I am looking forward to reading so many books with her but she can be sensitive. Is the Narnia series a good one to start now?

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