If you’re like me, you might feel a little awed, or perhaps a little intimidated, by certain homeschool families who seem to read all the books. I mean, they read so many books that they can constantly generate lists and lists of books to recommend to other readers. Classics. Adventures. Science stories. Biographies. History. Young Adult. Storybooks. (Ahem. Just read this blog and home/school/life magazine to find these lists and the people who write them.)
While I take six months to read, for example, one adult book for myself and one young adult book to my boys for their homeschool “literature” requirement, these people are literally reading stacks and stacks of books.
How fair is that?!
Okay, it’s totally fair. And it’s totally cool. I love that there are avid readers in the world, and I love the book recommendations. I would love to read all the books too, but I realized a long time ago that this was impossible for me, mostly because it takes me so long to finish a book. I also decided I wouldn’t sign up for any program that told me what I should read to my students because I knew I’d never finish them, and even if I could, I knew I wouldn’t agree with all the selections anyway. (For the same reason, I resist the urge to join book clubs.) Instead, I pick one good book that is calling me to read it, and I enjoy it until the end, and I don’t worry about the fact that I’ll never get around to reading all the books. (Even though that’s so, so sad.)
I read so slow that my husband thought it would be funny to start buying me huge books. (So, obviously, this is partly why it takes me a long time to read them.) Fortunately, I love the long classics. In the past couple of years, I’ve read …And Ladies of the Club and Anna Karenina. Yep, just two. I did read a few shorter non-classics and nature books too.
This past year I tried to read to my boys in the mornings before we did our lessons, but we only managed that about three days a week, if that. My literature-readaloud was The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich because not only is Erdrich one of my favorite authors, the subject matter also covered American history. It took us about five months to finish it. Yep, that’s right; it took us five months to finish a 256-page book.
It took that long because, as I said, we didn’t read everyday, and even when we could read, I didn’t always get to it. We had appointments to get to, or sometimes we read our history books, or I felt we needed to spend more time on math. Sometimes I just skipped reading altogether so that the boys could have a shorter lesson time. My boys need short lesson times because they need to move.
When my boys were younger, I imagined us going to the library at least twice a month and coming home with stacks of books to read together on the sofa. I wanted us to become a family of bookworms. But this never happened for several reasons. 1) My boys liked listening to books, but not enough for us to get through stacks and stacks of them before they were due at the library. And I also found out that I didn’t like sitting that much either! 2) We don’t live near a big library. (We live near a very small library, and when my eldest son was three and four-years-old, I did take him there occasionally, and we checked out many storybooks. But everything is easier when you have just one child.)
I would say we are readers, but we aren’t bookworms. Besides the sporadic morning readalouds, I read to my boys most nights before bed, but just for a few minutes each. We finish these books faster because we’re reading them everyday. This past year, I read the My Side of the Mountain trilogy and Redwall to my 10-year-old. Now we’re reading Mossflower.
Even though we only read for a few minutes at any given time, and I don’t have a long list of books to recommend to you, I know my boys are growing up to become readers. This is because our house is full of books, and we read something almost everyday. This past year and a half, as his reading skills have greatly improved, my 10-year-old began reading graphic novels silently to himself – every day! (Yay.) My 7-year-old can’t read yet, but he says he wants to know how to read so that he can read the graphic novels his older brother is reading.
So I’m just saying: You don’t have to read all the books. You just have to read a little bit of something almost everyday.
SHELLI BOND PABIS is home | school | life magazine’s senior editor. She writes about her family’s homeschooling journey at www.mamaofletters.com.