Monday, December 7, 2009

Mom's Holiday Reading -- The Read Aloud Handbook

I've been reading lots of books this holiday.  Among other things (several novels, some science experiment books for kids and things like that), I've been re-reading one of my favorite  resources, The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.   I find this book inspiring and I recommend it to anyone who has children whether you homeschool them or not.  It gives so many amazing statistics, facts, and real-life examples about why you should read to your children (to children of ALL ages).  It also has a wonderful resource list of recommended books that I've found helpful.

Mr. Jim Trelease gives such amazing statistics and I find myself reading *his* book aloud to my husband!  I'll give you a couple of examples:  Most people use about 5,000 words all the time in conversation (and another 5,000 less often).  Mr. Trelease explains why reading to your kids is so important.  In general, people use about 9 rare words per thousand spoken words to young children, about 11 rare words to 10 year olds and about 17 rare words per thousand when speaking to another adult.  A TV show uses about 22 rare words per thousand, but even a CHILDREN'S BOOK uses 30 rare words per thousand while an adult book or comic book uses just over 50 rare words per thousand.  In other words, books (and reading books aloud to children of all ages) is extremely beneficial for building vocabulary. (paraphrased from Trelease, p. 16)

Trelease talked about an interesting study in his book (pages 14-15).  In this study they studied/recorded conversation in 42 families from different working backgrounds. They analyzed the sound-bytes recorded within these families.  The study determined that the children of professional families arrived at kindergarten (at age 5) having heard 45 million words, while the working class children heard 26 million words and the children in poverty having heard just 13 million words.  This is a huge word gap; reading to children obviously helps increase the number of words they are exposed to.

He explains why it is important to keep reading to your kids even if they are reading on their own as their listening comprehension level is usually at least two-three grades above their own reading ability levels.  Plus, its a wonderful way to bond with your kids and to open up a dialogue about various issues that might come up in a story.

Anyway, I'm not prone to re-read books very often, but this is the third time I've given it a read.  Each time I come away with new ideas (as my kids have grown older). It helps me re-assess what I'm reading to the kids and helps inspire me and makes me think about how we incorporate pleasure reading into our day.  Several things I've done are a direct result of his book.  I have a book-nook in which I keep one shelf free to "display" books by their front cover.  I take pride in the fact that *every day* these books wind up strewn around on the cushions in the book nook (and beyond!); evidence of the kids' book browsing!  I also made a magazine rack where I display books seasonally or by theme (or just the latest library book finds).  Finally, I use a napkin holder on the dining room table and rotate books (almost daily) to read to the kids during meals/snacks.  Having the kids "begging" me to read to them as I bring out their plates is the extra boost I need to sit down, slow down and read to them. (When I get the chance I might try to share a couple pictures with you all of our book display areas.)  I also generally have "book time" after lunch/before quiet time -- well, when we're not on holiday mode that is!!

We don't have a great library in our small town so I have used ebay to buy our own library of books.  If you watch carefully, you can get some great deals.  Last year I bought 40+ Caldecott Award winning books for roughly a dollar each.  And, today I won lots of Newbery Award winning books (my oldest, now 6, is ready for these longer chapter books) for about 75 (US) cents each.  Unfortunately for us, they then need to be re-shipped over here (thanks Grandpa!!!) but still it saves us *considerable* money than buying them new (Australian books tend to be very expensive, often about double the cost of a book in the States).

Do you enjoy reading to your kids?  For me, it's a wonderful and often snuggly time of day with the kids!


  1. I still read to our 10 year old daughter for history, science, and literature. Because both of us enjoy it so much. I totally agree with your post. I can see such a difference in my daughter's daily vocab uses.


  3. Wow - I'm going to have to subscribe, lots of good bits to read here. We are going to try the graham cracker recipe for sure! My son has a new pen pal from Australia so I'll be showing him lots of your picts. Thanks from some homescholers in snowy Minnesota, USA!

  4. Thanks for your comments everyone. I'm sorry it took a while to reply to you all--it's a busy time of year!

    Diane, that's wonderful you're reading to your kids at age ten. I imagine we'll do the same. My Mom (an English professor) read to us for years. One of our fondest family memories was reading MacBeth together; my sister was probably 15 and I was about 10.

    Tammy, I've got it in the back of my mind to take a picture of the book display and the book nook, but to be honest it is so messy I'm not quite ready to take photos. I'm the homeschooling Mom that has to sweep things out of view when I take photos. Our house is definitely lived in! Or maybe you'd get more out of seeing how unorganized the books are on the shelves. Still, I'm really good about keeping the book displays "appealing" looking to the kids even though there may be toys on the floor, etc.!

    Finally, I wanted to say thank you so much for your lovely comments from Minnesota. My kids have been talking a lot about snow lately (you know "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" and all). Christmas has a different feel here. Temperatures have been hovering around 100-105+ and we've been spending time everyday in the pool. Still, for the kids it's completely normal as they were all born here.