One of the main parts of our days at home as an unschooling family is read-aloud time. We currently do this over breakfast most mornings. We start the day with food, good books, and interesting conversations, and that feels good for us! You can read more details about how it looks, as well as some tips for getting started, here.
Today I wanted to talk about another part to this which I only briefly mentioned before: reading time journals, as we call them here.
What are Read Aloud Journals?
Basically, something to do while you listen to books. But also, so much more than that.
Each of the kids has a journal that is used only at this time. They use a page or more each time to record something we have read about that day, and it ends up becoming a beautiful record of many of the things we have read and learned during this time. They choose to draw, or write, or both, depending on how they’re feeling that day. We unschool so they also may choose not to do it that day if they are busy with something else already. It’s always there as an option though. I put the journals in the middle of the table each morning with some pens, markers, and maybe even paint. Mostly, I find they choose to do something. They enjoy having something to do while they read. After we are finished reading, we pack them up for next time. These journals don’t get used for anything else.
What started as something simple to occupy little hands and help them listen when they were younger, has really grown into something with lots of benefits!
We’ve found that writing or drawing about something you read about really helps you remember the things that were interesting to you, we’ve included more opportunities to practice writing in our days, the girls have had more time for art, we’ve been able to read for longer because everyone is engaged in doing something at the same time, and we now have lots of journals to look back on that contain many stories and memories. More recently, when one of the older girls was interested in practicing more writing, I suggested she could use this time to practice summarising things we had read. Soon enough, everyone was following her lead and trying the same thing. Watching them over time I’ve really seen how they are getting much better at working out the most important points, putting things into their own words, and expressing their ideas and feelings about a variety of topics.
Optional is enjoyable! As unschoolers, we provide opportunities for learning without forcing children to do things, and so that is the approach I recommend. I offer up a lot of invitations, and I suggest things, but I don’t dictate what they must draw or write, or even that they must do it at all. That can turn something fun into a chore very quickly. Instead, make it an option. Provide the materials, share your idea, see how it goes.
Switch up the art materials. Variety is key! We’ve been doing this for a long time so absolutely sometimes we’ve gone through phases where they have gotten bored of it. That just means it’s time to change things up! Get out the paints instead, switch out the markers for pastels, write with fancy pens or a quill and ink. Or take a break altogether and do some handwork at reading time for a few weeks. Jump back in refreshed when they’re ready.
Pass out the books. After I’ve finished reading one of our books I just say ‘did anyone want to draw/write about this one?’ and then hand the book over to the child who is interested. They keep the book and can keep working on their page while I continue to read so that we don’t have to pause reading and interrupt the flow.
Ask for their opinions. Inspire them to record not just what they read but what they think about it, what questions they might have, their theories, or notes about things they want to look up later. This is a time when many interests are sparked and the perfect time to record them.
It’s as simple as that! Do you have reading journals? How do you use them? I’d love to know if you give it a try!