Sarah Mackenzie is one of my favorite homeschoolers for inspiration about how to improve any and all aspects of my reading life. As a Sonlight Mom, I am especially encouraged by her insights into how we can integrate a love of reading into our homeschools and into the everyday lives of our children.
She recently shared a motivating two part podcast entitled “Creating a Book Club Culture at Home.” Sarah believes that treating books (whether assigned or chosen) as book club choices we might make as adults will rouse our children’s appreciation, interest, and love for reading. I have to say I agree!
What is a Book Club Culture?
Sarah encourages listeners to imagine entering your Mom’s Book Club excited about the amazing book you just read and eager to converse and share your thoughts about the story. Instead you are presented with a multiple choice test just to make sure you have read the book. Then you are tasked with writing a five paragraph essay based on the novel.
Doesn’t sound fun does it? It is also unlikely that you’ll be back to that book club. Take a minute and think about what you really want for your kids. Do you want them to just “do” or be able to slog through a book? Or do you want them to have a love and appreciation for stories especially those found between the covers of a book?
Sure, as children get older literary analysis and dissection of stories might be important. I’ll tell you a secret. For those children who are well read and discuss stories on a regular basis those skills are often easier to come by and easier to teach in shorter amounts of time once the love of story is already present.
3 Parts to a Family Book Club Culture
Sarah identities the three elements she finds essential to establishing a book club culture for the family.
- We are people who read.
- Our home is a haven for reading.
- We talk about books.
Sonlight gives us the tools to create a book club culture at home. Sonlight also gives us the tools to create a more school-like, top-down approach to learning. As parents it’s up to us to decide which approach is best for our kids.
Build a Book Club Culture with Sonlight
Our family uses Sonlight to aide us in our journey to having a book club culture. By providing quality literature along with a wealth of ideas and resources in the Instructor’s Guide, Sonlight makes customizing their materials to fit the unique needs of our family simple and fun!
Would you like a glimpse into how our family uses Sonlight to build our family book club culture? I’ll be glad to give you a quick tour of how we fulfill all 3 of Sarah Mackenzie’s principles using Sonlight.
1. We are People who Read
As a Sonlight family we prioritize reading. We understand the importance of raising readers and have already chosen to make reading a core component of our homeschool. We invest in good quality books both to read aloud and to encourage independent reading. Think about the message it sends to our kids when we spend our resources and our time acquiring good books to share in our homeschool!
Our family has time set aside everyday that is just for reading time. We read in the morning at breakfast, during daily quiet time after lunch, and at night before bed. Although we always read during these times, we don’t limit ourselves to them. If we are really into a good book, we’ve been known to drop everything for a couple hours and just read.
We read to enjoy days off, weekends, and holidays. We read for comfort when we need downtime or when someone is sick. We read when it’s too hot, too cold, or too stormy to play outside. We even read by candle light (or flashlight) during storms when the power goes out. We do this because we are people who read.
2. Our Home is a Haven for Reading
We make reading accessible. Sonlight books are on a shelf that all the kids who know how to handle chapter books can reach. Board books are placed on lower shelves for the toddlers. The Sonlight books are marked with stickers to make them readily identifiable, but they are also mixed in with other quality books that we obtain from the library or from friends and family.
The kids are encouraged to take the books to their rooms. We have shelves and end tables in every room that hold baskets of books. Yes, the bathroom has books and magazines. If you have someone toilet training, lots of reading will be done in the bathroom if you leave books there.
Sonlight keeps the read aloud Instructor’s Guide (Discussion Guide) separate from the rest of the pack, which allows us the freedom to transition easily from book to book. We never go in order. We let the kids choose which books to read next. We read the back of the books and offer them up as a buffet of treats and let them decide which one gets devoured first, next, and last.
Every child has a different book of their choosing, which they are reading and/or discussing with a parent at bedtime. We have four children and make the time and space to do this because we believe sharing the experience of stories is one of the most important things we do as a family to foster respect and connection. There is also a family read aloud which is voted on by the entire family, including Mom!
3. We Talk About Books
Our family conversations often revolve around what we are reading. We see animals at the zoo that remind us of characters in a recent read aloud. We repeat phrases uttered by heroes or villains. We use the language of our books to give words to our own lives.
Sonlight does more than just give us great books to read to our children. Sonlight gets us talking with our kids about books right from the beginning. Children raised on Sonlight are so accustomed to discussing books that it doesn’t seem strange or unusual or “hard” to talk about stories, characters, plots, themes, motivations, etc.
The Sonlight guide can help make talking about books with your children easier. The discussion guides can be a powerful tool for helping facilitate intentional conversations. Our family loves to set aside time to “chat” about our most recent read aloud. Grabbing an ice cream treat during the summer or enjoying baked goods near the fire while laughing and debating moments in stories you’ve shared is a golden nugget of homeschooling with Sonlight. Don’t skip it!
To learn more about establishing a book club culture I encourage you to investigate Sarah Mackenzie’s Read Aloud Revival podcast (free) and premium membership (paid) sites, which house all kinds of resources for families like ours that treasure reading. If you’re already a Sonlight Mom you’ll likely find these resources encouraging and fun! If you’re not a Sonlight Mom, but are considering purchasing curriculum make sure you visit Sonlight’s current sales and special offers before you buy!
Wishing you joy, peace, and most of all faith in your homeschool!