home / teaching reading / homeschooling / gifted kids / breastfeeding / crafts


"A good education for every child does not mean the same education for every child.  "

Please use what works for you and your child and ignore the rest.  Every child is different.  If this information does not seem to be a good fit for your particular child, then keep looking and experimenting until you find what works.


This Web Page by Pauline Harding for Art Nurk,
Contents may be copied for personal use if credit is given.  Please ask for permission before any other use.  Do not copy this information onto your own web site without permission..


Reading aloud isn’t just educational, it’s great in all kinds of other ways too. 

Reading aloud can help to counteract anti-attachment forces in our culture, by helping our children to re-attach after separation, and creating comforting routines.  If you have a traditional mom-at-home, dad-at-work family, It’s particularly nice for Dad (if he is away at work most of the day) to read aloud – it’s a way to really connect in the little time he may have to be with the kids.  They get his focused attention, and he gets to hear the bits and pieces of their thoughts that arise during read-alouds.  Ditto for working moms.

Reading aloud develops shared experiences, references, language.  When kids are older and the books are longer, listening to books-on-tape together in the car can work well.  This shared culture strengthens family ties.

Well-chosen books can reinforce family values.  (This doesn’t mean you need to read preachy books!)  Our family’s favorite book themes:  Breastfeeding, birth, family bed, cats, clutter, creative recycling, being “different”, building things, playing with cardboard boxes, fiber arts, etc. 

Pretend play – its great if your children have literate friends!  Favorite books can be a great source of inspiration for pretend play.  Over the years, my children and their friends have played “Charlotte’s Web”, “Wizard of Oz”, “Milly Molly Mandy”, and Greek Myths.

Read Your Child a Thousand Books

Listening to stories read aloud is the basis for all the rest of learning to read.  And it’s fun!  Mem Fox has said that a child needs to hear 1000 books before learning to read.  That sounds like a pretty good rule of thumb based on my own experience.  A child who is read one story a night from the age of 18 months has heard 1460 stories by the time they are 5 1/2.  Three stories a day makes that a staggering 4380.  Now of course some of those are repeats!  (If you tried to do that in one typical 180-day school year, you’d have to read over 24 stories a day!)  (By the way – you can also get to the 1000 stories point by reading just three stories a day for a year – so don’t let the big numbers scare you!)

While just reading stories won’t be enough to teach every child to read – some will need more formal instruction – it certainly provides a solid foundation to build on.  Continuity over time is the key – little bits every day really do add up.

Get Silly

Mem Fox talks about “teaching without teaching, fooling-around, being-silly games”.  That’s the spirit!  Try doing silly stuff like reading the wrong word in a favorite book.

Talk about what you read.  Take the time to relate it to other experiences and thoughts.  This is something there is little time for in a school setting – but you can often take the time at home.  Stop and talk, make connections, “that’s like the time when…”, or “that reminds me of ..”, or “that’s like in that other book when…”

Ask questions about what you’ve read, but remember that questions may test comprehension but they don’t teach it.  Older children may write answers to comprehension-type questions, but don’t over-do this at home.

Read “real” books (not textbooks) whenever possible. 

Allow students to color or draw or dance or wiggle or knit or play quietly while they listen. 

Children can read aloud to siblings (or the cat).

For lots of good tips on “how to” read aloud, try Reading Magic, by Mem Fox – an excellent book.  There is also a lot of information about how to read aloud at her web site,

Making books accessible

Do you have books in your home?  Can your children reach their favorites?  Children’s books should generally be considered “consumable”, though of course a few precious books can be kept on a high shelf and taken down on special occasions.   Do you have a home for your library books?  A large basket in the family room is great – you’ll always know where to look for a new book to read, and it’s easier to gather the books when it’s time to return them.  Is there somewhere comfy to read?  Do they have time to read?  Some time in bed before “lights out” works well for many families.  A good reading light in the bedroom (Ikea has a nice one for about $15), or for older kids perhaps a book light, is a good investment.  Let them read in bed!

Even if they cannot yet read to themselves, they can spend time “looking at books”.  For younger children, mom can read to the child, the child can read a bit to mom (if they can), then mom and the child can “look at books” on their own – together!  You are modeling reading for your child, and they are learning the habit.  This is an ideal way for mom to get some of her own reading time in.  It’s also an opportunity for the child to observe some reading silently instead of aloud.