Welcome to Build Your Library’s “Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 15 – How to Raise a Reader”. In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated!
I’ve been homeschooling for a long time. I started when my oldest daughter was just 4 years old, and now she’s graduating from college! I’m currently down to my last homeschooled child… she’s a year away from starting high school. I only have about 5 years to go and then I’ll have graduated all four of my children from our homeschool. Crazy, right? Lately, I’ve been looking back, thinking about how we started, and how my style has grown and changed over the years.
If you have followed me or Build Your Library at all, you no doubt know that reading is my thing. I have always loved books. I think it started because my mother loved to read. She read to me, but more than that, I saw her reading. She loved stories, and I grew up around books.
We took frequent trips to the library. I loved getting lost in the aisles. I loved discovering new stories and authors. Re-reading my favorites was a common occurrence, and I always had a book at hand. When I wasn’t reading, I was watching movies and TV with my father. I was always immersed in stories.
When I started homeschooling, I wanted my children to love reading too. They didn’t have to love it as much as I do, but I wanted them to find the magic in a well-written tale. I consider this my biggest success in homeschooling. My oldest daughter majored in creative writing and wants to build a career around books. Writing them, selling, them, publishing… whatever she can do to be closer to the books. And she really likes the way books smell, so that is also a plus for her.
My second oldest is an artist, considering a career in animation. Her twin is also an artist, considering a career in comic art. Now those two might not sound like careers that have anything to do with reading. And I’ll admit to you that my twins aren’t big readers. However, what they are into is good stories. Both want to go into a career field that is book adjacent. Animation and comics.
My youngest is still growing and changing, but she loves to read nonetheless. She is still working out what it is she loves in books and reading. I’m still introducing her to new genres and stories. What she does with that down the road is still yet to be seen. But I couldn’t be prouder of the 4 of them.
There are many things that I did that I believe led to my children’s love of books and stories. I share these tips, not to guarantee your child becomes a voracious reader, but to inspire you to build a family culture around reading. That is literally the best tip I can give you. If you want your children to love books, you need to show them how to do it. By example.
Obviously, if you want your children to love to read, you need to read to them. I read to my children from the time they were born until they graduated high school. When they were babies, we read board books. As teens, we read classics and popular YA books. We traveled across Middle Earth, visited the Wild Things, toured a wacky Chocolate Factory, founded a new rabbit warren, and grabbed a bath towel for a trip through space. I made reading aloud a priority and stuck to it. Even on days that went haywire, we made sure to fit in our current read-aloud.
But more than just reading together, we talked about books. Since we were always reading something, we always had plenty to chat about. You can learn a lot about your child by the way they relate to books. We were able to discuss so many big ideas. Death, grief, love, oppression – they were able to experience life in other time periods and far away places. We found windows in books to lives very different from our own. We also found mirrors, so they could see themselves in stories too.
Because these topics were introduced through stories, it was easy for us to find ways to bring them up in everyday conversation. We were simply always reading, and always talking. My children were able to make their own connections between books, different historical events, and more. By exposing them to a world of stories, we guide them into our world from the comforts and safety of our laps.
As a child, I was a voracious reader, and part of why I loved re-reading stories was because I never had enough books. I read books like I breathed air. So when it came to guiding my children into the world of reading, I wanted to provide lots of reading material. We took frequent trips to the library, where they could make their own discoveries. I never policed their reading. If they thought they could manage it, I let them try.
I chose books that I wanted in our home library and slowly built that up over the years. I wanted to get to a place where we had plenty of reading material across many genres and covering a variety of interesting topics. Today, I can successfully homeschool history, geography, literature, poetry, science, and art right from our own home library.
I’m convinced that seeing my mother love reading is what led me to love to read. Parents hold a lot of sway over their children, particularly in their early years. If you want them to form a habit, we need to model that habit for them. They need to see you reading regularly. If you aren’t a big reader or you are in the midst of babies and toddlers, this might feel challenging. But if you can carve out even just 15 minutes a day to read, this will go a long way towards teaching your children that reading is a life-long joy.
But it’s not enough to just read a book once in a while. We need to show them that when we want to learn something new or have a question, we turn to books. It’s extremely convenient to just Google everything to get quick answers, but you need to model for your children that books hold information too.
Did your homeschool studies make you curious about life in the Roman Empire? Go to the library and find some books for your personal education! Are you trying to learn a new skill like canning or gardening? Get some books on that topic to help you in your endeavors! Cookbooks, craft books, art, magazines. There are so many ways you can add reading into your day!
When a child grows up in a culture of reading and literature, they will grow to appreciate it. To build that culture, we need to make reading a priority in our lives. Fill your home with books, read together, and show them that adults read for fun and knowledge as well. You will be well on your way to raising a reader.
As I said earlier, reading is kind of my thing. I have several other tips, tricks, and articles on similar reading topics on my blog if you are looking for more.
I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!
Until next time, happy reading!
Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.