Building a Reading Culture in Your Homeschool

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Reading books is a favorite part of the day for this homeschooling family. The kids are always pulling a book off the shelf and asking me to read to them. And I’m pleased as punch, because I know that this excitement for stories won’t always be there – not if I’m not intentional about building a reading culture in our home.

I know that reading books has to be something that is a part of us, not just something we do to check off the list. In recent years I’ve finally gotten to the point where I love love love to read and I actually make the time to do so. I say finally, because this reading culture was not something I experienced growing up.

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My most favorite chapter books to read when I first really took off with reading were The Babysitter Club Little Sister series. I was about nine and I can remembering devouring the books and being proud of myself for reading for a whole hour straight.

After reading about twenty of those, I read books the teachers gave us in school, and read a book here a book there. My mom did find the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Sheperd for me, I think I was in 5th grade when I was into reading those books.

I remember liking to read and every once in a while I loved a book. (Someone to Count On by Patricia Hermes was well loved and I read it countless times, the cover even fell off.) But I don’t have fond memories of “curling up to a good book” or ever of being a “reader.” 

As I went through middle and high school I probably only read a handful of books, if that, outside of the assigned ones that we always analyzed to death. I did enjoy a lot of the books that we had to read in school but never really got to read any of my own choices.

College years, forget it. There was too much school work, and real job work to be done. If I had any free time I was watching TV, listening to music off of Napster (remember that one!), spending time with friends, or picking up more shifts at work. Reading was off of my radar.

As the years rolled by and small children came about, reading was always one of those things I wished I had time for. 

Now that I’m homeschooling my first grader and my little one is tagging along, reading has been a big part of life. I’m finding that I’m not only reading to the kids but I’m really interested in reading myself. And I’m making time to read for myself!

I think among homeschoolers reading is such a huge part of the experience. Check pinterest and you’ll find a ton of pins about books for this topic, books for this age, best book lists, and it goes on and on.

But does reading always come easy for us? Is it just a way of life? Or are we wondering how to get our reluctant reader to read? Trying to figure out when we can fit in more reading time along with all the lessons?

A reading culture doesn’t happen overnight.  It takes time, and diligence. Our reading culture is still being developed because I have a beginner reader and a non-reader.

But here are some ways that we are laying a solid foundation to having “readers” who love love love to read and are happy to make time to do so:

As mom (and dad), we have to allow our children to see us value reading. They need to see us actually pick up a book and read.

We have to read aloud great stories that engage and feed our children’s minds. Stories that evoke feelings and emotions. We love Patricia Polacco stories like An Orange for Frankie, or Junkyard Wonders.

We have to make time for our kids to read. Ever since mine were little and not napping we have had “quiet time” where you may choose to nap or look at books.

At bedtime, I don’t always read to the kids but I do allow them time to read and look at books by themselves before bed. We purchased a drift light a couple of years back which has been an amazing bedtime tool. Over the course of 39 minutes it dims (the time it takes the sun to set) and then turns off. We set it, and the kids can stay in bed and read until they drift off to sleep.

During the day I try to work in a variety of reading time. In the morning there’s read alouds and then after a few lessons my daughter reads out loud to me. After lunch, if we aren’t heading out the door, I carve out time for each of us to read our choice of books to ourselves.

We have books and book shelves and baskets everywhere around the house. I keep my stack of books I’m reading next to my desk. We have a little Ikea spice shelf next to the kids’ beds for accessible books at bedtime. They have a book shelf in their room with a variety of early reader books and picture books. We keep the board books (which I’ll have to pass on soon) in a cloth box next to the kids’ rocking chair in the corner.

Oh, and there’s a few books in the car in the pockets behind the front seats. You may even see me pull a book out of my purse when we’re out and about and have some time to kill.

And I like to move books around too. I’ll pull out a few and lay them on the table or put them on a different shelf. This catches their attention and piques their interest.

The trick is to consistently have good books available in accessible places, and making the time to read.

Fun math: If you don’t think you can fit personal reading into your schedule… let’s say you read about a minute per page and the average book has 200 pages… read for only 10 minutes a day and you have just read yourself 18 books in one year!

How are you building a reading culture in your homeschool?

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