Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reading Aloud With My Middle Schooler

A key element of Sonlight Curriculum is the inclusion of "Read-Alouds" as a foundational part of the program up through Core H (typically a middle-school level program). Even when students can read well on their own, books are included for the parent and the child to enjoy together. As described in an article on Sonlight's website, the function of Read-Alouds are:

  1. To introduce your children to great literature that is beyond their personal reading capacity.
  2. To develop within your children a life-long love of reading. (Even though they may not be able to read a good book on their own, when you read great literature to them, it creates a thirst to read. They begin to think, "I love books! One day I'm going to read books like this!")
  3. To expand your children's vocabulary.
  4. To build listening skills--including the ability to visualize the meaning of spoken words.
  5. To develop an "ear" for good oral reading.
  6. To develop oral reading skills. (Having heard quality oral reading done by you, your children will imitate you. And,
  7. To give you and your children a context for sharing mutually significant times together.

I love how the books Sonlight selects for Read-Alouds are so much more than great stories--how they spur us to deeper thought and discussion on topics that we might not otherwise think to bring up with our children. Sometimes the stories are just SO good that we've finished them way ahead of schedule. A legendary example is the time my oldest daughter and I stayed up past 2am to finish the book The Westing Game because it was just THAT good. We couldn't possibly wait to spread the book over several nights' readings. So we kept on reading, kept on saying "just one more chapter" until the only thing that made sense was to finish the book!

The last couple weeks, I've been reading the book, Out of Many Waters to my 12 year old. It's a powerful story, a historical fiction novel that recounts the true story of  Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the US, founded in 1654. It focuses on a fictional character, Isobel, who was kidnapped from her Jewish parents in Portugal when she was very small, then taken to Brazil where she was forced to be practically a slave while being indoctrinated in Christianity. She and her older sister, Maria, escape and board separate ships bound for The Netherlands. A sequel to this book, One Foot Ashore, recounts the story of what happens to her sister. I've got this on order from Paperback Swap and we're going to add it in before moving on to our next scheduled Read-Aloud for the core. We've got to find out what happened to Maria!

Though a quick and easy read on the surface, the story of Isobel gives the opportunity for some discussion for us a followers of Christ, as to just exactly what nature evangelism should take when working with children, not to mention the whole idea of "forced conversion". My husband and I have worked in Children's Ministry a lot over the years, and so this is an issue we have certainly wrestled with. It's heartbreaking to see the fruit of tearing children from their families in the interest of "evangelism". I discussed these issues a little with my daughter, and talked about how important it is for us to put our primary focus not on pulling children away from their parents, but rather seeking to reach whole families with the Gospel message.

We finished the book today (a day early!), and one of the scenes in the final chapters described the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hoshana, or New Year. One of the customs described is the dipping of apples in honey. Reading this in the book reminded me of this fun folk song I discovered last year and played for my daughter today sung by The Fountainheads, a Jewish music and dance group. I'll close for this entry with the music video of  "Dip Your Apple".

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