Since I am about to send off my second exclusively homeschooled child to college on an academic scholarship, I get quite a few questions about how to prepare homeschoolers for college.
There are many elements we teach our children during the years and years we are preparing them to launch out on their own. These include, but are not limited to:
- organizational skills
- proficiency in basic subjects
- independent study skills
- self motivation
But what I want to touch on today is the single most important thing I have done for my children to prepare them for college success.
And I don't just mean reading "Red Fish, Blue Fish" to my preschoolers. I mean reading aloud every day to all ages who are gathered in the living room and listening attentively to true stories of real life heroes, and fairy tales, and science fiction, and historical fiction, and biographies of famous inventors, and the classics, and the popular chapter books, and silly poems, and long sombre poems, and current events. I mean reading things above their levels of understanding and then talking about the words they didn't understand.
This daily activity is important in so many ways.
Reading aloud trains children to sit quietly and listen.
Everyone comes to the living room at the appointed time with paper and pencils or crayons so they can doodle or draw if they choose. The little ones sometimes want to whine, but I correct their behavior and continue reading. Before long, even preschoolers can sit for half an hour listening and then summarize what was read.
Reading aloud expands their minds.
"What we send into that ear becomes the foundation for the child’s 'brain house.'" -Jim Trelease
Reading aloud sends your children to foreign countries they may never be able to actually visit. It allows them to explore imaginary lands, real landmarks, homes of historical figures, ocean depths, and distant planets.
Reading aloud sparks curiosity.
There have been many times when one or more of my children have sneakily taken the book I'm in the middle of reading aloud and read the entire thing in one day. Then they beg me to go to the library and check out more books by the same author or on the same subject.
When I read aloud about missionaries in Africa, they want to know more about missionaries and Africa. When I read The Magician's Nephew, they want the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia series. When I read The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, they want to see what other works Poe has written. When I read about how to incubate turtle eggs, they want to know more about turtle development. In all of the above cases, the child seeks out the new reading material on their own.
Reading aloud instills a love of reading.
Reading aloud develops vocabulary.
I try to include literature that has vocabulary slightly above the children's level of understanding. When they hear an unfamiliar word, this does an amazing thing. It makes them wonder what the unfamiliar word means. They ask me about it. They try out the word in conversation at the dinner table. We may congratulate them on using a new word, or all laugh at their misuse of it and tell them how to correctly use it. Whatever the success or our response, a new word has worked its way into the storehouse of the child's mind.
One example of this is when my 9 year recently old asked me, "Would it be treasonous for President Obama to work with Russia?"
Reading aloud increases success rates on standardized tests, like PSAT, SAT, and ACT.
Studies show a close correlation to students' success in school and on standardized tests and vocabulary knowledge. My own two oldest children who have gotten academic scholarships based on the results of their SAT and ACT scores have shown this to be true in our family.
You can see why I am a firm believer in reading aloud to children of all ages.