Fiddling While Rome Learns
Sarah Mackenzie, The Read Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids (Zondervan, 2018).
Reading is essential. We all know this to be true, but we do not always take the time to read to our children. It is easy to put aside reading for pleasure during our busy schedules to tackle things that we feel are more important or necessary. However, we are missing a most important opportunity with our children when we eliminate reading time, especially read aloud time.
The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie does an excellent job explaining the benefits of reading aloud to your family. I found this book to be inspiring and enlightening. Mackenzie simply encourages reading together with no other intent than to spend quality time together. Just read and eventually you will see the benefits of such a simple activity.
The Read Aloud Family is divided into three parts. In Part 1, Mackenzie illustrates the value of reading aloud. She explains how books help us to see the world beyond ourselves. By reading together a little each day, Mackenzie explains that you are creating a connection within your family that will run deep. Parents should read together with their children without setting expectations or making it a learning activity. Choose good quality books and read them aloud for pleasure. The topics of the books will open up family conversation and even the experiences you have together with books will create fun, family memories.
Stories are powerful, and they can impact the reader in a variety of ways. She recommends choosing books that inspire heroic virtue. Your children will live vicariously through characters as you read. Stories stoke the imagination and reach the heart of the reader, creating empathy and compassion through characters and plot.
In Part 2 of the book, Mackenzie focuses on how we can make connections with our kids through books. We usually do a great job reading aloud to our children when they are young, but as they get older and read on their own, we tend to abandon read aloud time with them. It is at this time that reading expectations at school become the main focus for children who strive for success in the school environment. Reading then becomes a duty. Mackenzie states that “parents who think the primary importance of reading is to be successful in school are less likely to have kids who enjoy reading than parents who see reading primarily as a venue for entertainment.” (p.93) Home is where your children have a chance to fall in love with books and read for pleasure.
This is not to say that reading at school is a bad thing. From my experience in both elementary and middle school, children enjoy reading and discussing books in the classroom. Teachers work to foster a love of reading. Parents, however, cannot rely on the school to create a love for reading. The most successful way to do this is to create an atmosphere in the home where reading is done simply for the pure joy of it.
With this is mind, we need to be intentional about making the act of reading aloud a part of our family culture. We need to make reading less of a duty and more of a delight. Put some snacks on the table, open up a book and read. Let conversation or questions naturally arise from the reading; do not read with the intent of quizzing your child on the book afterwards.
Mackenzie explains that reading aloud does not have to be long. Take whatever time you have and read. Books do not have to be heavy with content; they can be simple and fun. If a book choice for your family is unsuccessful, then simply choose a different book to read. You can even use audiobooks when traveling or commuting. Let your children work on something while you read. They do not have to be sitting still. It can be easy to turn reading into a habit in your home.
It is never too late to read aloud to your child. Even if your children are teens, read aloud together. The content of books at this age is as such that adults and older children can enjoy and talk about together. The time spent together with teens is also priceless and this simple act can foster a close relationship between you and your children.
Mackenzie also includes advice on how to choose a good book by using certain criteria and a series of questions. She explains ways you can talk to your kids about books by using both intentional and organic conversations, and she lists examples and explanations of ten good questions to ask about books.
Part 3 of The Read Aloud Family outlines the different age groups and what to expect when reading aloud to each group. It also includes a book list for each age group to give parents a resource as they begin or continue their read aloud journey.
As a parent and an educator, I have always understood the importance of reading. However, I have also always felt like I could do more by way of reading to my kids or my class. What I also found encouraging about this book is that Mackenzie explains that there are times we do not do as much as we want, but that every bit we have done already has been beneficial. I encourage every parent to read this book for inspiration and encouragement as you begin or continue your read aloud journey.
The simple act of reading aloud at home results in numerous benefits to your family. Begin reading aloud now. You will never regret the time you spent reading with your children.
**You can also listen to Sarah Mackenzie on her Read Aloud Revival podcast to get more ideas about reading in your home.
Mrs. Bohot, Kindergarten