Nurturing Readers

A few weeks ago, I’d posted an interview with a 13yo homeschooler (my son), who is now an avid reader, on my blog. I received this comment from a reader, Lindy:

WOW, what a great kid you have there. And you know great kids come from great parents. Good job!!! I am trying really hard to be a family of reading. My daughter Genesis (9 years old) use to love to read, but now she dreads it. I keep getting books for her hoping that one will spark her interest. I’ve made it a requirement that she reads a chapter before getting online or TV. I just don’t want her to hate reading, which right now she does.
Any tips? ;)

This is something that’s brought on a lot of thought and prayers for me over the years… years that I sure didn’t feel like I was doing a “good job”! This question of how to go about nurturing readers, especially when a child doesn’t seem very prone to reading on his own perplexed and intimidated me. Yes, I can honestly say that teaching our oldest son to read was like this big hurdle in my mind… I just knew that if I could get him reading well, the rest would come! It didn’t even occur to me then that he might not like reading much, once he’d learned. I too bought books that laid around unread for years before they were *discovered*, which yes, eventually… they have been!

OH! … and what an insurmountable task it seemed to me, looming before me like some mysterious quest that I didn’t know exactly how to embark upon, to teach my oldest child to read. I think the simplicity of it really eluded me… that teaching phonics, and then nurturing a genuine love for reading, isn’t really so difficult as I’d inadvertently built it up in my mind as being, and so in many ways discouraged myself before I’d hardly begun. That however, is the curse of a perfectionist, and I digress… Yes, this journey has definitely taught me as much as it’s taught my son, about perseverance. It really does simply take a little bit of consistent effort, and intentional time set aside regularly.


Our son was not always nearly so enthusiastic about reading as I was, nor as he is now, unlike his younger sister, who’s been a bibliophile from the time she was five and started reading on her own, stressing me out over on the opposite end of the spectrum because I hadn’t taught her those phonograms yet and she might get all mixed up!

Yes, with all of the fumbling, planning, worrying and learning that I’ve done over the years, I think that I’m finally starting to realize that my kids are learning not because of me, but rather in spite of me. Laughing… Seriously though, there are a few things that I do believe I’ve done right in the way of nurturing our up and coming readers, which may even warrant my passing along to you, and so I shall.

Nathanael & Tabitha enjoying their scheduled reading time together.

Nathan used to moan when I’d give him a book for required reading that seemed to him like it would require too much effort, or didn’t catch his attention immediately by way of its title and cover. Oh, how often I did fret over his seemingly delayed readiness to even learn how to read. And I emphasize seemingly because I soon learned that I was gauging his readiness by the wrong standards: I was judging where we were by my own preconceived expectations and self-imposed time-line, rather than by his…

I do believe that starting with a solid phonics program is the key to giving your children a strong reading start. However, at the same time, I also think that it’s important that we don’t rush them, forcing something before they’re ready. If we want our children to love reading, we should be sensitive to their readiness, because they will eventually be ready and want to learn!

We took it slow, beginning to learn basic phonics when he was six, and progressed steadily from there. Let’s just say that it was not his favorite thing to do, and so I persisted at an easy pace, sometimes only five minutes a day (per what I’d learned from my plethora of reading teacher materials), and eventually I turned it into game-time, which he responded most readily to (in second grade). That’s when it all begin to click for him…

Here is an excerpt from an article that encouraged me immensely in the earlier years, to relax… to pay more attention to him, rather than to my own fears of failing him.

Better Late than Early
An Excerpt from: Homeschooling for Success
How Parents can Create a Superior Education for their Child

For younger children, the emphasis is usually on building a solid foundation in reading, writing, and basic math. Where schools believe in starting formal learning as early as possible, most homeschoolers believe in delaying formal studies until the child is seven or older. This allows the child to mature physically and emotionally before she is asked to sit down and study.

Dr. Raymond Moore and his late wife, Dorothy Moore are probably the best-known advocates of the later-is-better approach. The Moores’ 1975 book Better Late Than Early summarizes research supporting their contention that children are not psychologically ready for formal learning until age eight to ten. They suggest that waiting allows children to gain the maturity and logical skills necessary for formal work and prevents them from becoming frustrated and discouraged by attempts to handle material they are simply not yet ready to understand.

It is quite common for homeschooled children, especially those using a flexible homeschooling approach, to learn to read as young as three or to delay until age eight or nine. This may seem like a shocking idea, but boys in particular are often not ready to read until they are seven or older, and they quickly catch up to the early readers.

Because of the individualized nature of homeschooling, late reading is not a handicap as it might be in a conventional school setting. Schools rely on text-based instruction, but “late” readers at home simply learn through other means, like watching educational TV and videos, asking questions, and observing the world around them. Also, since the child is not labeled as “slow” or put into the slow reading group, their self-confidence and self-esteem does not suffer. The child will grow into an enthusiastic reader, and thus view reading not only as a tool for obtaining knowledge or keeping up with others but as an enjoyable activity.

Raising a lifelong reader is very different from just teaching a child to read. Approximately twenty million people in the United States can’t read. Another estimated 40 million read at a fourth-grade level. While these are unacceptable numbers, there is another reading epidemic in this country. We’re a nation of “alliterates'”, which means we know how to read but we don’t read. A 1999 survey showed that only 45 percent of citizens read more than a half-hour every day—that would include all reading from fiction to newspapers to work-related materials. While the two hours of television the average American watches each day factors in here, could our nation’s lack of interest in reading have something to do with the way we are taught to read in school? Is it because we assign reading (instead of letting the child choose) and require book reports? Book reports in the second grade? Record numbers of children are forced to read before they are developmentally ready. Thus, reading continues to be an unpleasant experience for most of their school career. Unless a reading problem is involved children learn to read when they are ready. It is developmental and not synchronized to meet an educator’s timetable.

The best advice is to teach your child to read when they are ready, regardless of how young or old they may be. {emphasis mine.} Reading specialists have observed that children display certain behaviors when  they are read to read.

Click here to read the rest: Better Late than Early: An Excerpt from: Homeschooling for Success, How Parents can Create a Superior Education for their Child

Also see: Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education

I won’t bore you (well, not in this post anyways) with a list of all of the reading curricula that I read for my own edification, some of which I then *used* on him as I designed my own eclectic reading program! However, I will share with you what I think nurtured him along the most regarding his going beyond merely learning how to read, to his eventually becoming a real READER: someone who picks up a good, living book, of his own volition, and reads for his own pleasure and edification… often. {Oh, GLORY day!} This didn’t happen really until he was about 11 years old. Don’t get me wrong, he’d read a few good chapter books before then, but only because I’d required it.

I’ll never forget the day that Nathan actually thanked me for making him read a chapter book on his own, which “turned out to be interesting, after all”, but only after he’d done a lot of grumbling before starting it. Imagine that?! This was also when he got his “don’t judge a book by its cover” lecture. Good times!

He was nine, turning ten years old that year. That was also the year that I started having him read a harder, more challenging book aloud to me regularly as well (both were required reading for our AO, Year 3 program). Actually, we took turns reading it, and it was divided into short portions, scheduled out over a period of many weeks, which kept us both plugging away at it together, without being overwhelmed. That was all that I required of him though at that time, reading-wise, besides some short, regular poetry readings, and occasional read-aloud sessions from his McGuffey, both of which he actually loved! Over the years, he’s learned to trust my selection of books, and isn’t so quick to snub a book I require or merely suggest.

I will say that besides the Moores, the writings of Dr. Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason offered me the greatest encouragment regarding the teaching (or rather, facilitating of) reading at the time. Now I’d like to offer a few tips for nurturing your own readers, much of which I think is somewhat intuitive.

The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.  ~James Bryce

Nurturing Readers~ Some tips from our Reading House to Yours!

  • Make reading to your children often a priority, from the time they’re babes, even on into their teens. Be selective with this reading time, choosing quality, living books full of great ideas, worthy of your child’s imagination and ever growing curiosity regarding their world.

Daddy read-aloud time, spontaneous and on his terms- outside!

  • Make a point of incoorperating narrations into your daily reading routines early-on, and continue as the years progress. This, in our experience, has been an area that easily gets neglected. Every day, we begin again…
  • Require fifteen, then twenty, and eventually thirty minutes of comfortable (reading level-wise) silent reading each day, from a book that’s part of your “studies”, literature supplemental to your history studies maybe (what we call our “school books”- which are simply the ones I’ve scheduled). Now that they’re older, my kiddos read more, but this was a good starting point in their early elementary years. Practice, practice, practice… a little bit each day, just like the phonics lessons that got them there.
  • Require your children to read aloud to you each day as well. I cannot overstate the value of this discipline enough. It’s not only provided hours of wonderful memories for us, but also allows me to hear what we need to work on, clarify phonetic mispronunciations and gives your children needed practice with enunciation and elocution, an invaluable skill.
  • Be patient. Continue to read good books to them, even once they’re reading fluently on their own. Keep your shelves stocked and tables strewn with more of the same, and they will read… when they’re ready, what they want to (along with a few things you’ve *suggested*, or required via their other studies, to challenge them).
  • Be a discerning reader yourself. They will learn by seeing you, and eventually will emulate you and will even want to read what you’re reading- just last week Nathan asked me if he could read my book when I was finished. He’s also forever reading news and geo-political stuff over his Dad’s shoulder. Get yourself some good book lists to refer to over the years, as you make purchases, create a PBS wishlist, or go to the library. I had to learn what books I was even looking for, since my own education (unfortunately) didn’t include much in the way of good literature. I’ll include some of my favorites at the end of this post.
  • Provide plenty of *easy* books for them to read, along with magazines, with lots of engaging pictures. These will nurture that symbiotic relationship that’s just beginning between your children and their books early on. I must admit that though we avoid it for the most part, I’ve even allowed a bit of twaddle over the years (Magic Tree House series comes to mind here- I think the kids checked every single one of those out from the library one summer), as well as some of those Illustrated Classics. Catherine Levison has a great article here defining twaddle, which is the literary equivalent to junk food, and you want to avoid, for the most part. My son read and re-read a huge collection of Ranger Rick mags that a friend’s daughter had given us. I remember him piling a new stack of these well-read, falling apart magazines on our bed each evening… Nathan has also LOVED the Usborne World History and Time Traveller books, BIG time, and has read them front to back many times over the years! Last year he devoured Oxford’s First Ancient History, which we’d bought him as a gift, seeing as it was a step-up from the Usborne history books that he’d loved so much. He’s also enjoyed Hakim’s History of US series, which we’ve gradually attained via, and has led to some interesting discussions. Nathan will often choose history books for his evening free-reading time, and it has been a joy to see this interest of his grow and blossom over the years. His other all-time favorites have been our myriad collection of picture Bibles. In the last couple of months I have been thrilled to find him snuggled in bed with his grown-up NIV, “reading about David”! It was really hard to tell him “lights out” those nights.

Tabitha and Nathan settled into their nightly reading-time ritual in Mom & Dad's bed.

  • Allow your children an extra 30 mins. to an hour of time after “bed-time” to sit up and read, before “lights-out” time. It works! Our kids have been doing this for years, and it’s become a very important time to them. It’s also a time that Dad will often snuggle and read to them, or myself, once the baby’s in bed. I’ve also allowed them to do drawing or copy-work (yes, per their request) during this “quiet reading time”. Since Chris and I usually stay up well after they’ve gone to sleep, we’ve often allowed this time to be in our “big bed”, which enabled Nathan and Tabitha to be together, and facilitates snuggling so well. One year we read through The Chronicles of Narnia together, a chapter or two a night. It all started when I announced that we had to read the book before going to see the movie, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when it came out in theatres. Once we finished that first one, the kids just wanted me to keep going. Now that they’re older though, and their baby sister is sleeping in our room, this time is spent in their own bedrooms. Everything in it’s time. You will find what works best for your family.


  • Don’t over do it. Remember that you want them to enjoy reading. Less really can be more, in the long run. If your children seem sincerely overwhelmed, lighten their load a little bit, so long as you’re confident
  • Help them find good books (and/or articles online even) about topics that interest them.

Reading or laundry? Hmmm... yeah, I'd choose the book too.

  • Don’t be afraid to tell them no, and make them wait for some books. I did this with The Hobbit, a book that Nathan wanted to read for years before I’d let him, before he was ready. The cover jacket of this book tantalized him to no end, and the inadvertent anticipation this created was worth its weight and wait in gold. When I did finally relent, a couple of months before he turned twelve, he gobbled it up within three weeks, over our winter break, right before starting the LOTR trilogy. Yes, I’ll never forget that holiday break, when I did the homeschool-mama-happy-dance all around the house, while he spent the month immersed in mature books, of his own volition, and *off* from school-work. Now, he’s reading The Hobbit again (per his own request) at a much slower pace, as it’s scheduled into his weekly AO readings.
  • Allow them to take their school-work/reading books outside. A change of pace is always nice, and the outdoors invigorating… especially when one has good company. :-)


  • Get an iPod and load it with lots of great audio books! We’ve done this for the last couple of years, and it’s been such a blessing, not only in catching my slack (having had a baby has really cut into our read-aloud time!), but in providing constructive listening time on long road trips, or as a reading aid for more difficult books. is my favorite place to download free podcasts (chapters) from. We’ve found many of our schoolbooks (classics, in the public domain) available there.

Audio books on iPods make read-alouds fun and convenient, anytime, anywhere!

  • Siblings reading to each other and even helping with the teaching is also a great reading encourager. How blessed I’ve been to awaken in the mornings to find my son reading to his younger sister, all quiet and snuggly in his room. These are wonderful, precious times and my two older ones are already anxiously working with our toddler!
  • Watching the movie made from a book is always a treat around here too. My kids love to critique movies according to their books! Recently they were very impressed by a documentary that we watched, “Exodus Revealed” which incoorperated a lot of archaeology verifying the Israelites and the Exodus, which we’d just been reading aloud about again. They were fascinated! We watch a lot of documentaries around here, and I highly recommend Netflix as a great educational supplement. We supplement much of our history and literature (think; Shakespeare plays) readings with great movies.
  • Last, but certainly not least, is the fundamental importance of LIMITing screen-time for your kids! At our house, this “screen-time” includes tv, computer and video-games (which we don’t own, besides a few educational pc games, and our *vintage* atari game!) time. We’ve done this to the point that it’s just understood as a fact of life. Our kids ask to watch videos, it’s just routine, and we don’t have cable tv. The two year we did have cable, it was for the high-speed internet connection, and they had to ask permission to watch certain shows, and tv time was limited. They have a set amount of computer time to use each week, and we have a system where they sign in and sign out, so as to keep track of time they’ve used online. Thus, when our kids get “bored”, or have down-time, they often reach for books, rather than vegging out in front of a screen…

I do hope and pray that you are encouraged! Even as I did these (mostly mundane) things that I’ve listed, and we plugged away little by little with our humble reading routines over the earlier years, I often felt defeated and discouraged, like I wasn’t doing enough… However, now that my older children are ten and thirteen year olds who relish reading, I can see that it was all just a matter of t.i.m.e., and their being individuals who progress at their own rate, in their own time. There is no formula, because homeschooling is living and learning together, daily. We are not educating with a cookie-cutter mentality, therefore I do believe that the reading journey’s dynamics will be a bit different for each family, and even with every child within that family… naturally.

Book Lists from which to glean~

  1. Ambleside Online (see book lists under each year)
  2. 1000 Good Books List
  3. Simply Charlotte Mason
  4. TruthQuest History
  5. Twaddle-Free Literature by Grade Level
  6. A Book in Time
  7. Sonlight
  8. Veritas Press

And lastly, I’d like to leave you with a little nugget of advice from my 13 year old homeschooled kiddo, when asked during his interview what changes he might suggest to homeschool teachers,

I think a lot of parents over stress themselves, thinking they have to be up to standards or up above public schooling when they first begin home schooling because they hear that home schooling is better. This makes it to where there is too much stress when they try to teach just like a public school. That is the glory of home schooling because that most of the time the student gets to choose some of his or her assignments and subjects for the day, to have input.

So, there you have it folks… Relax, read with your kids, and enjoy the adventure, since it’s every baby step along the way that will get you there!


There is a great deal of difference between an eager man who wants to read a book and a tired man who wants a book to read.  ~G.K. Chesterton

Please share with us what you’ve done to nurture your own readers and any tips you’ve picked up along the way in creating a reading house within your own home.

Embracing the adventure,

Stay “Post”ed

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  1. Erin says

    Great ideas! I have watched my two older boys “teach” my youngest daughter to read and I have watched the two boys read to one another. Peer-to-peer encouragement can sometimes be really key.
    Also, reading the book and watching the movie (or listening to the audio book) has been a great way in our home to encourage the reading.
    We have a HUGE variety of reading materials around our house and that has also helped.
    One last tip: After reading a book, encourage reenactment. Sometimes creating an alternate ending to a story or a prequel/sequel can engage the story telling and create an excitement for hearing new stories!

  2. says

    Wonderful ideas Erin, thank you for sharing! Yes, you’re right about siblings reading to eachother and even helping with the teaching. These are wonderful, precious times and my two older ones are already anxiously working with our toddler!

    I have fond memories of Nathan and Tabitha spontaneously planning and reenacting quite a few tales with their stuffed animals. There are so many creative ways to include narrations in one’s reading routines.

    And watching the movie made from a book is always a treat around here too. My kids love to critique movies according to their books! Recently they were very impressed by a documentary that we watched, “Exodus Revealed” which incoorperated a lot of archaeology verifying the Israelites and the Exodus, which we’d just been reading about again. They were fascinated!


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