One of the easiest ways for natural learning to be a part of our family life is to learn from books. We learn from reading the Bible, reading fiction and reading non-fiction. In this day and age of entertainment it is easy to think that we read books for the story alone – and there are times that this is true, but most good stories have something we can learn from.
We Learn from Stories
From stories (fiction or non-fiction) we can learn
- History – the actions of people
- Science – to understand the natural world
- Worldview – how our beliefs affect our actions
- Character – how to respond to people or situations
- Thinking and reasoning – to see agendas, bias, logic, and develop the ability to defend your beliefs
- Creativity – how the author uses words to communicate ideas, to see different styles of writing,
Learn to Respond to What You Read
One of the things we need to clarify before we can learn from a book is, “What is the purpose of this book?” We can gain purpose from reading the front and back covers – what is this book about and what do I expect to gain from reading it. This purpose need to be clearly stated as the child starts to read a book, though real learning may not be limited to that aspect.
When we realise that reading a book is like having a conversation with the author we start interacting. If the author was standing in front of me I would ask a question and he would answer. I would challenge his presumptions and he would defend his perspective. Unfortunately I don’t have the opportunity to meet many authors face to face so these conversations need to happen either in my head or on paper. When we have a thought about something, a question from what we have read, or a reaction of any type we are interacting with the author or content.
I expect my children to keep a Reading Journal especially for the books they read as a part of their education though my hope is that this becomes a habit and they will write as they read any book. My encouragement is for them to write after every reading session – especially their reading time after lunch.
Writing helps clarify our thoughts, and cements things into our longer term memory. By writing notes to themselves they can start to see a thread of inquiry that comes from having this discussion with this author. I also expect them to write a report/essay on at least one subject when they finish reading the book.
12 Ways you Can Respond to a Book
We have been looking at different things that we can record in our Reading Journal:
1–Record important information – this can be done as a brainstorm with words scattered all over a piece of paper, it can be done as a mind map or a list. What is important and how they record it will differ for each student.
2–Look for key words – find the main idea – create a summary
3–KWL Chart – This chart gets you to ask yourself 3 main questions: What I Know, What I Want to know, What I Learnt (about the given subject). This is a good one to start with at the beginning of a book and fill in as you go.
4–Cause and Effect or If/Then – record your observations of consequences of actions or beliefs
5–Compare and Contrast – this is often done in a venn diagramme though it can be done as a list
6–Character Trait Chart – List “4” things your character did, describe his character/values, what can you learn from him and his actions
7–List unknown words – look up in the dictionary and use in a sentence
8–Ask a question – and if the author doesn’t answer it go look somewhere else: atlas, encyclopedia, internet (research). Write about the answers you find in your reading journal, don’t forget to record your sources
9–Copy-write – or recreate artistically – a quote or sentence you liked. Or you could use a two column format – record a direct quote/sentence etc in one column and then respond in the other.
10–Draw or doodle – focus on something that you remember, a significant event, or emotion. Or think about your response – how does what you read make you feel, reflect on, or what to remember.
11–Reflect – do you agree/disagree, like it, connect with it or not. Does it remind you of something? Explore why you have these feelings about this topic or sentence
12–Respond – how has this book changed you – changed what you know, believe or how you act. Has the character in your book been an inspiration, a role model, or someone to avoid? Why?
Jimmie has a great Squidoo page on Reading Journals that is particularly helpful to younger years as my prompts here are probably worded for the older child.
One of the biggest benefits for keeping a reading journal as you read a book, is that it gives opportunity to process information and then come the end of the book the student has some original thoughts to write about. When I ask for a report at the end of reading a book I don’t really want a regurgitated book report – I could read plenty of reviews online if I just wanted to find out what the book was about. I want to see learning happening in my child’s life. I want to see them interacting with ideas and knowledge.
When they start thinking and engaging with a book they are learning to identify key ideas and arguments. They can summarise based on key details they have recorded, they can use quotes that they have highlighted to support their ideas. Their writing becomes not only more interesting but it becomes their knowledge. This is true learning.
Start Teaching Your Children to Respond when they Read
Regardless of the age of your children, you can teach your children to respond (to engage, think, respond) to the books they are reading. In order to learn to respond, in an intentional way, I set aside a few weeks to teach the skills of thinking while reading and of responding in their reading journals.
I selected 12 picture books from our shelves, and each day I read a picture book and we focused on one type of response (from the list above). At this stage my kids were already reading and studying independently in some subject areas, but we used a picture book to make this whole process simplified – once they gained the skill in an easy setting they could build the mental strength and skill to apply to any book they were reading.
Mind you I love a good picture book, and my kids, regardless of age, can engage with the story! Each day we would take one of those 12 ideas and ‘write’ in our reading journal.
One more thought –
Can I encourage you to keep a reading journal as well – and to learn to do so by joining in as you read these 12 picture books. You will benefit two ways. Firstly, your own mind will be stimulated as you learn to think as you read. Secondly, your children will delight in seeing you as a role model as a life-long learner!
Click on the image
Five in a Row (FIAR), a literature based unit study for 5-8yo, has been one of the biggest influences in our homeschool years – it influenced how we learn.
Ruth Beechick has been one of the biggest influences in our homeschool, and in particular how we learnt.
Children become independent students by building on their natural curiosity and developing skills – one layer at a time.