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This is the first year of this century that I haven’t homeschooled a child. I started slowly, with two school-aged children and a baby, and built from there, eventually homeschooling all five of my children, then four, then three, and then one. Homeschooling has its ups and downs, like any other choice, but there was one continual bright spot in our days: the family book.

I’m sad to say that we’ve stopped reading together since we stopped homeschooling. We keep a very busy schedule and school eats up a lot of the children’s time.  Frankly, I miss it, and one of my goals this month is to champion the return of the Family Book in our house.  There are so many wonderful reasons to share books with our children long past the time when they can read to themselves:

It slows us down. Family books get read in pages or chapters, not in great gulps and rushed frenzies. When you’re reading a book one small bit at a time, you can contemplate it, savor it – really give it time and space in your head. What comes next and what just happened are equally important. Why becomes a bigger word – why the characters did what they did, why the events unfolded the way they did, even why the author wrote what they did.

It connects us. There’s a wonderful quote about readers living a thousand lives while others live only one. When you share a book with your family, you share that extra life. You fight dragons or the school bully together. You eat fried worms or assist a magician at the circus together. You cry at the death of beloved book friend together.

It adds to our shared language. Hobbits, wyveraries, fountains, the Sound of Music*: They all have special significance because of books we’ve read together. When my husband was preparing to take my 15 year old daughter on a father-daughter movie date, they “read” The Fault in Our Stars together (my husband listens to the audiobooks while he drives to work). Yesterday, he quoted the book to her. That moment of connection, of understanding, is invaluable.  

It opens conversational doors. What better time to talk about crushes than during the safe window of someone else’s crush? Or about siblings, or families, or any of the other complicated subjects that crop up in the course of raising a child, for that matter. Reading The Penderwicks gave one of my children the opportunity to express fears of what would happen if one of us died. Without the opening of that door, she might never have felt comfortable bringing it up.

Finding time for Family Books in our busy lives is tricky, but worth it. I’ll be looking for every possible way to make sharing books happen in our house. Any suggestions?

*From The Hobbit, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making, Regarding the Fountain, and Surviving the Applewhites, respectively

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