How do most children learn to communicate? The number one way that most modern kids learn language patterns is from media: TV, video games, computers, telephones, texting, etc. Kids are certainly not hearing excellent speech patterns from these sources. A better way for them to learn language patterns is by having conversations with their parents and other adults. Unfortunately, our busy culture is such that we don’t take the time to have deep, meaningful conversations with our children on a regular basis. Technology pulls our family members to opposite corners of our houses and puts ear buds in our ears. We need to be intentional about nurturing competent communicators.
Fortunately, homeschool kids are quite often voracious readers. Good books can be an excellent source of reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns. The problem with this method is that most good readers read so rapidly that they actually skim through the books. When people read that quickly, the brain is not always able to store the complete language patterns that they encounter.
So what’s the solution? We’d all love to raise children with excellent communication skills – children who are able to speak their mind as well as to write down their thoughts in a cohesive and impactful way. Andrew Pudewa, founder of The Institute for Excellence in Writing, suggests that reading out loud to our children, no matter what their age or reading ability, is the answer to this problem.
Most parents read to their children when they are young. As they grow and are able to read for themselves, however, parents often stop reading to them and merely listen to their children read instead. This is a mistake, according to Andrew. He says that we should continue reading books which are just above the level at which our children are reading on their own. This will expand their vocabulary as well as the language patterns which are stored in their brains. Both of these components are necessary for our children to become competent communicators.
Andrew suggests reading aloud to your children 2-3 hours a day. In fact, he would say that reading out loud to them is so important that if you took a one year sabbatical from any other teaching and simply read to your child 4-5 hours a day, your child would learn more and be farther ahead than they would be if you didn’t read out loud to them at all and taught them all of the other subjects as usual.
Sally Clarkson, the author of Educating the Wholehearted Child also agrees with Andrew on the importance of continuing to read aloud to your children. She recommends that you start your homeschool day by reading aloud to your children and fit in the other subjects as there is time. I love to read and I love to read aloud to my boys. I used to struggle with having enough time to fit reading aloud into our school day. The other subjects always seemed to expand to fill whatever amount of time we wanted to spend on schoolwork – and there was rarely time to fit reading aloud into our schedule.
After hearing Andrew and Sally’s viewpoint on the importance of reading aloud, I switched our days around and started reading aloud to my boys first. This has worked well for us and I have been doing it this way for the past couple of years. My boys and I love it! We are able to wake up to the gentle subject of hearing books read aloud and are also able to connect with each other on a deeper level.
Andrew suggests reading books that were written between 1840-1920 which is considered to be the golden age of modern English literature. He says that books from this time period have the most linguistic value for your children. You can also harness the power of media by letting your children listen to audiobooks. This is a great activity we’ve discovered for making long car drives feel much shorter. Audiobooks can be a valuable resource.
Try reading aloud to your children at the beginning of your homeschool day, no matter what their age or reading ability. I think you’ll find, as I have, that it is time well spent.
Question: How do you intentionally nurture communication skills in your child? Do you have suggestions of great books to read aloud to children of all ages? Please leave a comment below.