A year of reading aloud | 2018

Reading aloud is a big part of our daily homeschool life. Our children love to be read to, and we love reading to them. Through the stories we read, they encounter epic themes, gain cultural literacy, witness heroic and dastardly deeds, and learn empathy. They also gain access to books which are above their own reading level, which enhances their vocabulary and deepens their love of reading.

Last year our eldest turned six years old so we have had a lot of fun beginning to explore longer stories, alongside our existing diet of picture books. Our four year old also joins in with listening, and his grasp and understanding of the story frequently surprises me!

I try to select books that present ideas to their minds, rather than being merely entertaining. The 19th-century educationalist Charlotte Mason called these ‘living books’ – books which spread a feast of ideas and invite an encounter with truth, goodness, and beauty. Sadly this criterion rules out a lot of the books on the shelves in our local library… Happily there are plenty of lists of such living books to be found on the internet. I have found these invaluable as starting points for choosing what to include in our read-aloud time.

Our read alouds in 2018 included:

  • Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder (actually in 2017, but this was the first ‘chapter book’ I read to the children, so it warrants a special mention!)
  • The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales, Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
  • Sophie’s Tom, Dick King-Smith
  • Sophie Hits Six, Dick King-Smith
  • The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  • Stories from Around the World, Heather Amery
  • A Bear Called Paddington, Michael Bond
  • The Impressionists, Rosie Dickens
  • The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis
  • Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis
  • The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes
  • The Borrowers, Mary Norton
  • Many, many picture books!

I am looking forward to even more reading aloud in 2019!

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A year of reading | 2018

Despite the challenges we’ve faced in 2018 (bereavement, pregnancy sickness, pregnancy plain and simple), I have actually read more this year than the previous two or three years combined.

How?

Simply by making it a priority.

In the daily business of homeschooling, feeding my family, cleaning up, church, community, and growing a new baby (hello, exhaustion), it would be easy to push investing in my own mind and heart to the periphery, making it a luxury rather than a necessity.

But I’ve learned several things this year which have convinced me that this approach simply won’t do.

When it comes to my own wellbeing, and especially my walk with God, no-one else can make this a priority for me. So if I don’t make the effort to look after myself, there’s no-one else who’s going to do it.

The topic of ‘self-care’ has a lot of traction on social media and blogs and podcasts, but it’s often framed with an emphasis on ‘getting away from it all’ and spa days and indulging yourself. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with those things, but they aren’t actually by themselves going to expand my mind and heart, help me deal with the things that I’m facing, or cause me to turn to God in gratitude and in dependence.

Reading is time to dig into big ideas, time to listen to God, time to expand my horizons and thinking and experience. Reading the Word, reading novels, reading non-fiction – these things engage my intellect and enhance my mind and encourage my heart.

I cannot pour from an empty cup. So I need to fill myself with good things in order to be able to lavishly share them with others.

The art and heart of education is imitation. Educating others is, at root, leading by example. In my own home, as I raise and educate my children, I want to be someone who is worthy of being imitated. So I strive to model to them my aspirations for them. (I frequently get it wrong, since I too am a work in progress.)

I’ve also learned this year that it’s really OK to be me. I don’t have to feel bad because I wish I loved the same things that all my sophisticated friends and acquaintances do. Life is too short. I am me. I love what I love. When it comes to reading, I don’t have to force myself to finish (or even start) books because everyone else says they’re amazing. This has been very freeing and has allowed me to relax into reading.

I used to read voraciously as a child and teenager. Getting back into reading was not as easy as I had hoped. I got distracted easily, I put it off, I couldn’t concentrate. The antidote to this problem has been to simply read, just a little, as many days as I could manage, and to rebuild my reading muscles over time.

And it has been worth it.

Other people will have read a lot more books than me this year. I hope that I will read more next year. But right now, I’m just pleased that I read more this year than I did last year.

So, without further ado…

The best thing I read this year:

  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

And the rest:

  • For the Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine l’Engle
  • Nurtured by Love, Shinichi Suzuki
  • The Read-Aloud Family, Sarah Mackenzie
  • An Artist of the Floating World, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Yellow Wallpaper & Selected Writings, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin
  • Raising Boys, Steve Biddulph
  • The Secret Life of Cows, Rosamund Young
  • The Christmas Box, Richard Paul Young
  • Teaching from Rest, Sarah Mackenzie
  • One True Story, Tim Chester

And three books that are topping my list for the coming year:

  • A Many-Splendoured Thing, Han Suyin
  • Boundaries, Henry Cloud and John Townsend
  • Mere Motherhood, Cindy Rollins

Oh, and The Hobbit. I haven’t read that for years 🙂

Happy reading everyone, and happy new year.

Picture book round up | February and beyond

Things have been quiet here of late.

My last post was about my dear Nan’s death back in February. I haven’t really felt like writing since then.

I think, though, that it might be time to try to ease myself back into it.

There will be other posts, but for now: here are some picture books we’ve read and enjoyed in the past few months.

Books about bereavement:

Badger’s Parting Gifts, by Susan Varley
A gentle exploration of death and memory

Goodbye Grandma, by Melanie Walsh

The Building Boy, by Ross Montgomery

Other books:

Amazing Grace, by Mary Hoffman

Oi Frog!, by Kes Gray and Jim Field
Very clever rhymes!

Mole’s Sunrise, by Jeanne Willis

Caterpillar Butterfly, by Vivian French
From a brilliant series called ‘Nature Storybooks’

White Owl, Barn Owl, by Nicola Davies
Also from the ‘Nature Storybooks’ series

Turtle Watch, by Saviour Pirotta
Learn about tolerance, kindness, patience, and how turtles lay their eggs!

The Hare and the Tortoise, by Brian Wildsmith

Ella Bella Ballerina books, by James Mayhew

Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus, by Atinuke