Monday, June 10, 2013

The Classical Preschool - Read Aloud

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Welcome to day 1 in a 5 day series about The Classical Preschool.  Please click the picture above to learn more.

The preschool years are an incredible time of language development.  Children go from toddlers who are just learning to piece single words together, to kindergarteners who can form complete thoughts, speak in paragraphs, and understand thousands of words.

Preschoolers can not yet read (or are just beginning), so they develop their language skills by being spoken to.  Yes, I am sure you talk to your little ones all day long (when you are not listening to them jabber, that is), but there is something extra special about reading to them.

Classical education is all about gaining knowledge, learning how to think, and eventually being able to express your own conclusions.  All these things hinge on reading and speaking, both which are focused on while reading aloud.

While listening to you read, your child will:

  • increase their attention span
  • expand their vocabulary
  • be exposed to vast amounts of information
  • become a critical thinker
  • expand their ability to retain information
  • learn how to read themselves (voice inflection, pauses, speed, etc.)
  • and more!

How does reading aloud look in a classical preschool?

Hopefully you have been reading to your child since they were a baby, but by age two, make sure your early preschooler is surrounded by quality books.  Go to the library and get stacks of books, ask for books as presents, keep your eye out for great books at garage sales, whatever you need to do to have books in your home.  If you need guidance as to choosing books, my favorite list is the 1000 Good Books list.

When my oldest turned 2, we started having formal school time for a few minutes, a few times a week.  We would focus on one book each week.  Even though we would read many other books throughout the day, I liked establishing this pattern of having a certain 'read aloud' time.  For your 2nd, 3rd, (and so on) born children, they will probably be a part of your reading to older children, so this time for them will occur naturally.

Everyone only has so much time in a day, so audio books are a great way to supplement (not replace) your read aloud times.  I was reminded of this twice recently, once on my friend Jessica's blog (My Teacher's Name is Mama) where she talks about making her own 'listening center' by recording herself reading a book, and again while reading The Well Trained Mind for the Classical Mamas Read book club going on here at Living and Learning at Home.  The book also recommends taping yourself reading and playing it while your child plays or rests in their room.  This is a great age to do that!

As your child nears the age of three, it is good to start introducing longer stretches of reading.  I don't mean for this to be a burdensome time.  Simply read one paragraph out of a great children's literature book or a living history or science book.  I have personally found that the best time to do this is while my kids are eating breakfast or lunch.  Just remember to challenge, but not exasperate your child!

As your child grows in their ability to sit still (or at least listen while playing quietly), increast from a paragraph to a page, a couple of times throughout the day.  When my son was well into his 3 year old year, I would try to read him a page from a 'living' nature book, and a page or two from a children's literature book each day.  This was not easy or natural for him at first, but we kept practicing!

Now that my son is 4 (nearing 5), I am amazed at his ability to listen while I read.  Not only is he able to sit relatively still and quiet, he truly has come to enjoy these times throughout the day.  He asks the most inquisitive questions as I read (which I love because it shows me that he is listening and not just being quiet), and usually asks me to keep reading.  He loves to look on while I read and notice where I am reading on the page.

Here is my son talking about some of the books we are reading and he is enjoying looking though during his quiet time each afternoon.  He loves to look at them over and over, memorizing the chapter names and reading bits and pieces himself (he is still daunted by the amount of words on the pages in chapter books).

For his 4 year old year, we are reading living history books, character stories, living nature books, and children's literature books.  The article 10 Things to Do with your Child Before Age 10 recommends at least 2 hours of reading aloud per day.  My goal this year has been to work up to that.  I think most days we are there.  Some days not, but it is always at least an hour (keep in mind that this time is spread throughout the day.)  We love to read while we are eating breakfast and lunch, before rest/nap time, and even outside, sometimes while I'm pushing the kids on the tire swing!

Recommended Preschool Chapter Book Read Alouds:

These are for when your preschooler is comfortable sitting and listening to a page or so of reading and doesn't need pictures to keep their attention.
  These are affiliate links to books that I have enjoyed with my preschoolers.

I'm sure there are many more, these are just some of the ones we have read in the past two years.   
What are your favorites to read to your little children?

This series is a part of the iHomeschool Network summer Hopscotch!  Click the picture below to find other great series' from the ladies of the iHN.


  1. Yes, we've been working up to sitting for longer stretches of time. My three year old worked up to sitting for a whole chapter of Charlotte's Web. It's one of our favorites! Its nice because my 19mth old is just along for the ride and doesn't know any different. Can't wait to read the rest of your posts for this week!

    1. That is awesome! My son really enjoyed Charlotte's Web as well. My little girl doesn't know the difference it! Thanks for reading!

  2. Hi Amy. Great post.
    We went TV-free a couple years ago, and I was utterly amazed how my kids began taking more interest in books once morning cartoons were not an option. Totally painless transition. They really didn't watch much to begin with, but I had begun homeschooling the oldest, and I refused to just put my little boys in front of the tv while she worked with me each morning, plus I heard Mark Hamby of the wonderful Lamplighter Publishing Company speak on the dangers of media and it pretty much sealed the deal for us and the TV situation. I have never once regretted the decision because we are able to easily spend 2 hours a day reading now (M-F) and special family movie nights have actually become a real treat! :) Another thing I've done is tie read-aloud to daily tea-time, which the children just love (it's at the end of their quiet time each day).
    Remember audio books def. count as "reading!"
    Adorable video, btw! :D

    1. It is so encouraging for me to hear you say that! We recently started a 4 Quarters-a-week idea, where the kids can turn in a quarter for a half hour show. That limits TV time to less than a half hour a day. If they don't use all their quarters, they can keep them. So far it's working really well. My husband and I are talking more about putting the TV downstairs, so that would limit it even further.

      Reading and Tea Time sound just wonderful! Thanks for the comment!

  3. Excellent post! I love to see where you started with Trevor to where you are now. Most of these things are all about discipline and forming good habits for both the teacher and student. Lets encourage each other to stay the course and be diligent!

    1. It was neat to look back to where he was even a year ago and see the improvement. Jessica, yes! Let us continue to encourage one another!

  4. I loved your video of your son and you talking about the books. My girls { 8, 6, 4, and almost 2 } also loved watching as well. As soon as your son said he was 4 years old in the beginning I called in my 4 year old and the rest all came in to watch as well.

    We also quite like 'Wisdom and the Millers' series. 'Charlottes Web' is also another favorite. I've started 'Wind in the Willows' once upon a time before but I think I might need to revisit that now that the girls are coming on through. We have the 'Little House on the Prairie' series too, but I like to leave that for the children to read to themselves.

    Lately I've been trying to include a few illustrated classics for the girls and that has been working great.

    My 4y2m year old still flitters in and flitters out but she's picking up bits and pieces as we go. I don't mind too much at this point since she is doing very well overall.

    Loved your article.

    The Paper Maid

    1. Awe thanks! I didn't really know what he would say, but I thought that would be part of the fun =)

      Oh! Wind in the Willows...I have that one. I'll have to remember to start it soon. Right now my son is obsessed with the Little House series, so we might be finishing ALL of them before moving on to something else =)

      Thanks for reading!

  5. I currently am working full time. I don't have a lot of extra time currently. However, I am expecting my second child in January and plan to stay home at that point. I love reading to my daughter. How do I begin transitioning her from picture books to books that don't have pictures? I'm sort of at a loss, and have I lost a lot of precious time with her since for the first 3 years I have not done this? How can I recoup the time? Thanks for the help!


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