Do you want to start reading aloud with your kids, but are unsure where to begin?
Then stay tuned to today’s Homeschool Heartbeat, as your host Mike Smith
and his guest, homeschooling mom Julie Schnatterly, offer guidance and encouragement for
family reading time.
Mike Smith: My guest this week is Julie
Schnatterly. She’s a grant administrator for the Home School
Foundation and a homeschooling mom. Julie, welcome to the program!
Julie Schnatterly: Hi Mr. Smith, thank you for having me!
A shared experience [0:30]
Mike: Well Julie, you wrote a blog post about the
importance of family reading time. Now what inspired you to write that?
Julie: Well, reading together with my children, and sharing
books, and engrossing ourselves in the story together is one of the best memories that I
have of homeschooling my children, who are all young adults now.
Mike: Why do you think it’s so important for parents to
read together with their children?
Julie: It creates a shared experience. So, we meet characters
in books and go places together, and we make memories. And we developed through that
experience this language of common knowledge that became a part of our family culture.
So even though the children are older, we still have references to books or stories or
people that we met, and it’s kind of woven into that fabric of our family.
Mike: Can you give us a little example of how this actually
Julie: We would take just a quiet time, maybe an hour after
lunch, or when the kids were too old to take a nap and they just needed some quiet time
to settle, and just sit and read together. We would read in the evening, at the park,
wherever it just seemed to be a good place—where we could just sit together and
Just read [1:38]
Mike: In your blog post, you talk about growing up in a family
that never read together. So how did you discover the joy of reading aloud?
Julie: In the early days, when I was just getting started as a
homeschool mom, I was a little overwhelmed by all of the things that needed to take
place to educate my children at home. And like so many moms just getting started, I was
worried that I would mess things up, and a good friend told me that I would never do
wrong by my kids if I just read with them. And she encouraged me to just spend time
Mike: Many parents may want to read together with their
children, but are wondering where to begin. How did you get started reading aloud, and
what advice do you have for parents who want to do the same?
Julie: One of the ladies in our homeschool group hosted a book
discussion, and we read a book called Rabbit Hill together, and my
kids loved it, and after we did that, we just were kind of hooked on reading aloud
together. And then she followed up by loaning a book to me called Honey For a
Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt—very helpful for Christian
homeschooling parents who want to find some good resources. Librarians are very helpful
in finding book selections, and the Sonlight catalog is amazing for
choosing living books.
No frigate like a book [2:50]
Mike: Julie, what do you enjoy most about reading as a
Julie: Oh, in the busyness of the day, it was just a time where
we got to be together. Everyone sat still and we connected over these great stories that
we were reading. And we made friends with characters, and learned about places and
periods of history that, even now, it’s a point of connection for my
children and myself.
Mike: What are some of your favorite books that your family
read aloud—and why?
Julie: Oh, we’ve read so many books over the years,
we’ve read classics that everyone is familiar with, like The Little House
on the Prairie series, and The Chronicles of Narnia, but
there were less-known stories, missionary biographies like Torches of
Joy. When the kids were small we really loved a series about missionaries
called Heroes: Then & Now. It introduced them to heroes of the
faith like Corrie Ten Boom and Amy Carmichael and George Mueller, and those were just
short stories. And as they got older we read books with harder topics, like The
Hiding Place and Johnny and The Diary of Anne
Mike: Julie, when you say your family read together, did you do
all the reading, or did the children also participate?
Julie: Occasionally, one of the older children would volunteer
to read if I wasn’t feeling well or just because they wanted to, but most of the
time they liked to listen to mom read, and that was just how that worked for our
Mike: Well, that’s outstanding, Julie, thank you for
A universal attraction [4:10]
Mike: Julie, we know that some books just seem to be made for
reading aloud—and others are not. What makes a good read-aloud book?
Julie: I personally found The Lord of the
Rings books difficult to read; they were great stories, but I stumbled over
unfamiliar names of characters and cities, so much that we kind of scrapped that as a
read-aloud. That was a great book to read by yourself. But any book that you enjoy
reading could potentially be a great read-aloud, and a parent that reads with energy and
enthusiasm can pull their children into just about any story.
Mike: So with that in mind, what should parents keep in mind as
they look for good books to read aloud to their kids?
Julie: I’m going to share a quote with you: C.S. Lewis
said that “No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally
worth reading at the age of 50.” I enjoyed the books that we read so much, and
often I enjoyed them more than my children. But I found that even my youngest child
would be very aware of what was happening in our story, even stories that I would have
thought would be beyond him.
So I would say, don’t target the choices to your children’s reading
level. Allow your child to experience the development of a good story beyond what they
would be able to read themselves. So if you’re just getting started, and your
children are younger, you might want to start with some short stories. You just kind of
grow that, as they grow.
Mike: Did you guys discuss the books after you read them?
Julie: Oh yes, we had so many conversations!
Mike: Did you have them write reports on the books?
Julie: Sometimes, but most of our read-alouds—they had
schoolwork, they had books they were reading themselves that they would report on. These
were just more relaxing, enjoying, more of entertainment value, but they were getting a
lesson alongside of that, so for us it was separated from their schoolwork, per
Anytime, anywhere [5:56]
Mike: Julie, some parents have trouble finding the time to read
together as a family. What are some ways that parents can get creative with reading
Julie: I think that if you’re committed to reading aloud
as a family, you’ll make time for it, like anything else. We tried various things
through the years; the schedules would change and our children would get older, and
sometimes after lunch there was an hour of quiet time that provided a perfect
opportunity for rest. And sometimes in the evenings instead of screen time, it was a
great way to segue into their bedtime routine. We also listened to books on tape in the
car. There’s lots of places; if it’s important enough you’ll find that
place that works really well for your family and your routine.
Mike: How can homeschool parents inspire and encourage a love
of reading in their children?
Julie: I think that parents need to let children see them read.
We have to model what we think is important. Life is busy, and it feels like a luxury to
take the time to sit and relax with a good book. But when you read aloud with your
children, you’re modeling the importance of reading, and it promotes togetherness,
it encourages a habit that makes your children lifelong learners.
Mike: Well Julie, thanks so much for being with us this week,
it’s really been encouraging. Reading together is something all of us can
do—and can be so fun and beneficial for the family. And until next time,
I’m Mike Smith.