One of my earliest memories about reading was curling up on the couch with my mom and my two brothers as she read us the first chapter of The Hobbit. For some reason, she never finished reading the book to us. But I was so fascinated with Tolkien’s description of a hobbit hole that I felt I had to learn to read just to find out what happened. At least, that’s what I tell people. This was the first and only reading hour that my family ever did.
Ever since then, I’ve always thought of a family reading hour as one element of an ideal family. So I loved hearing about Dynel, a homeschool mom of ten, and her family’s reading hour.
In her family, everyone gets together every day in their special reading corner, and Dynel reads to them for about an hour. Even her youngest kids join in, and they’ve all learned valuable skills in stillness and attentiveness. During their reading hour, Dynel and her family have worked through many classic works of literature. She finds that reading aloud lets her select or adapt the material she reads. She makes the books either more understandable or removes inappropriate elements.
If you want to add a reading hour in addition to your normal reading instruction, here are some additional ways you could set it up. Your reading hour should be fun, so if you or your children get frustrated with one approach, try a different setup.
Dad’s Reading Hour
One family I know has their reading hour at night right after dinner. The father is often away for long hours at work. Reading together as a family gives the children a chance to connect with Dad. He gets to learn what makes them laugh, and they get to share some valuable moments of stillness outside of the hustle and bustle of the day. Dads might especially enjoy reading these adventure-focused books aloud.
If you want to build your children’s confidence and skill in reading aloud, try taking turns while reading. You can assign a different reader each night or alternate readers from page to page, or even paragraph to paragraph. But experienced readers may get frustrated, and less experienced readers may feel overwhelmed by long passages. Remember that reading hour should be fun. So if it isn’t working for one of your readers, you should drop round-robin reading. Keeping all reading times short lets everyone practice, and it makes sure everyone’s happy. These selections from a variety of genres and reading levels help keep everyone interested. Seasonal Christmas books are also especially good for round-robin reading hours.
Read and Report
Not every book should be read aloud. And not everyone has the same amount of interest in the topic of a book. For these kinds of situations, you can spend your reading hour reading separate books silently. After your children finish their books, or at the end of every hour, they can share the highlights and what they learned with their siblings. This would work well for informational books and biographies. If your boys put up a fuss about reading “girl books,” independent reading hours are a perfect time for your daughters to read about excellent female heroines and then explain why the boys should read them too. Even the little ones can get involved with books on their level.
Your family’s reading hour may wind up being somewhere between Dynel’s experience and mine as far as regularity is concerned. But sometimes, once is enough. Even though I don’t remember my mother ever reading aloud to us again, there were many, many evenings that we spent reading together from then on.