Tag Archives: language arts

Living Books and Reading Aloud


Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren, 1888

One of the most valuable activities in our home is reading often and at length from good books, “living” books, chosen carefully for their literary value—interesting, educational and pleasurable to read.

I remember my grandmother baby-sitting me often when I was quite young due to my mother’s on-going health problems. Each night, Grandma would read one of the Beatrix Potter books to me. Those moments curled up, warm under the covers with Grandma sitting on a chair beside the guest bed reading delightful stories about Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle are some of the warmest and fondest memories I hold dear from my childhood.  Years later when reading those books to my own children, it evoked happiness in the deepest part of my being.

I started reading aloud to my children when they were just days old. I know they couldn’t understand what I was reading yet, but I knew that the love and care communicated to them by being held in my arms as I read softly to them was a gift beyond measure. By the time my children were about three-years-old, they were all able to sit and listen to chapter books like Charlotte’s Web or A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh series.

For a list of twaddle-free literature by grade level, go to:  Debi’s Twaddle-free Reading List

I continued reading aloud to my children for as long as they were living in my home.  If my children ever have children, I hope to be able to read to my grandbabies someday, as well.

Once my kiddos were reading fluently on their own, they did their school work from their own books, but we still continued our family read aloud times just for the fun of it. I think all the reading aloud in our home did wonders for our family. It served as a treasured family activity, a foundation for a love for great literature in the children, a means for developing a stronger command of the language, and an avenue for increasing listening skills.

Reading aloud was always a cornerstone of our family time and homeschooling adventures.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.



The Play’s the Thing: Introducing Shakespeare to Children

Studying/enjoying Shakespeare has always been a mainstay in our family’s educational efforts ever since our children were fairly small.  About age six or seven is when we’d start introducing comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dreamor something exciting and full of adventure like The Tempest.

First, we tried to always read through Charles and Mary Lamb’s version of various plays in Tales from Shakespeare  or Stories from Shakespeare by E. Nesbit, just to enjoy the plot and make sure we understood the basic story line before attempting to wade through or listen to the Elizabethan English of the play, itself.

The Bard’s plays were intended to be seen performed on the stage with live actors — not read from a book with all the stage directions, etc.  I think teachers get it backwards when they try to introduce anyone to Shakespeare by having someone sit down and read the play from a book.  Personally, I think there’s nothing quite like seeing a live production of a Shakespearean play.  He wrote them as plays, not as novels.

If you don’t have a professional Shakespearean company close by, don’t despair. Check for local high school and college productions of Shakespeare’s plays (these are often very good productions and not nearly as expensive as seeing a professional Shakespearean company).  In the Seattle area, Greenstage puts on live Shakespeare-in-the-Park events throughout the summer which are free (donations welcomed).

If your children enjoy Manga comic books, you could even introduce the kiddos to the basic plot of Shakespeare’s plays through the new Manga Shakespeare editions.  I especially like the Manga Midsummer Night’s Dream version.  One of my college professors actually had the Manga edition of The Tempest as part of our required book list (as well as the full-text version, of course).

I also like the No Fear Shakespeare series which include two versions of each play side-by-side on the page … the original language and a modern English version.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


How to Memorize Poems

What I do with poems that we’ve decided we’re going to learn by heart is this:  I put the poem into my word processing program then I increase the font so that the poem takes up one entire typewritten page.

Then I print it out, slide the printed sheet of paper into a plastic page protector and hang it in a highly visible place in the house where the kids will see it regularly (i.e.: on the refrigerator, the classroom wall, or even in the bathroom!).

Several times each day, we’ll stop by the displayed poem and read it aloud together. After we’re done with memorizing a poem, I’ll place the poem and its plastic page protector into a three-ring binder to use with subsequent children.

It’s amazing how quickly you and your children will have an entire poem memorized with very little effort. And with a seasonal poems (springtime, fall, or the holidays for example), you could even recite your poems at a family gathering such as an upcoming family dinner. Impress Grandma — and make poetry memorization a fun-filled family event!

For more about poetry, see this reprinted article from the Parents’ Review magazine (edited by Charlotte Mason) “On the Teaching of Poetry.


These were our family’s two favorite poetry books when the kiddos were preschoolers.  The books are small, but the poetry choices are actually quite good.  Both are out-of-print now, but you can often find used copies online, and I’ve also seen them at thrift stores.


These were the two main books we used for elementary level poetry readings and memorization:


You can also browse many Charlotte Mason related books and resources at Amazon.com’s Charlotte Mason Bookstore.