From the feedback we got this year through the survey, we now know many of you (like us!) are reading the National Homeschool Book Award books either alongside your kids or aloud with them. In fact, one of our goals when starting the book award was to encourage families and groups of homeschoolers to create community around the stories.
So, while it’s in no way a requirement for parents to read the books with their kids, we love hearing that many of you are already doing that and we’d like to encourage those of you who haven’t tried to consider giving it a go!
In order to make it a little easier to share the stories, we thought we might send out some tips and hints about reading each of the books aloud with your kids. Our first book club blog book will be WONDERSTRUCK, so we’ll start there…
First, WONDERSTRUCK is intimidating in it’s length on first glance–at over 600 pages, it’s enough to give any parent pause in thinking of committing to reading it aloud. BUT, don’t fret! The truth is, it is actually our SHORTEST read aloud, coming in at about 3½ hours total time beginning to end, including the notes at the end and time for chit chat along the way. Over half of the pages are illustrations, making it a good book to dive into with kids of all ages!
One misperception many people have is that to read aloud properly, their kids must be seated and be still and quiet on the couch, or they simply won’t be able to follow the story. However, it is actually the opposite in that many (if not most) kids track and retain details in a story better when they are allowed to move around. In fact, there is some brain research that shows that using your hands (be it building with Legos, drawing, playing with clay, knitting, etc) actually stimulates the part of your brain that is also responsible for daydreaming, keeping it too busy to interrupt your kid’s attention span.
Even with the visual emphasis in WONDERSTRUCK, that can still work. At my house, the kids played with Legos on the floor during the text sections, then hopped up on the couch next to me to see the illustrations.
One final note–WONDERSTRUCK is an amazing story, so give yourself permission to fall into it and enjoy it yourself. Sometimes as homeschoolers, we get so caught up in taking advantage of every “teachable moment”, pointing out every vocabulary word or quizzing the kids to test their comprehension to make sure they’re understanding the story in the same way we are. It’s important, though, sometimes to give yourself the chance to step out of the teacher role for a bit and enjoy the adventure of a great story with your family.
Try reading aloud for the sake of the story; read it for your own enjoyment as much as theirs. By all means, stop and answer questions or to share your authentic thoughts and feelings about the story or the characters. Hearing how you feel about it might inspire kids to share openly their thoughts in a way that a prompting comprehension-style discussion question never will. You might find it’s a nice break from having to be the expert all the time, and it’s a great lesson in itself for kids to know that, sometimes, the story is enough.