Homeschooling · Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Arts

My Kids, Reading, and The Green Ember

Homeschooling my kids is something that I never planned to do. Some moms have that goal from day one of being a parent, but it wasn’t something I had even contemplated. When my husband suggested that we consider homeschooling and pray about that possible path for our family I was immediately dismissive of the idea. But fast forward 4 years and here we are homeschooling and about to wrap up my daughter’s 2nd grade year, and my middle guy’s kindergarten year.

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I’m certain there will be more to share on the topic of homeschooling in the days to come, but this isn’t exactly a post about homeschooling. However, it is about one of our favorite aspects of homeschooling, and about something that has really transformed our homeschool day:

READ ALOUD TIME!

For the first couple of years of homeschooling, outside of our Bible reading from our favorite storybook Bible, we really didn’t read much out loud together during our day. I knew it was something that I wanted and needed to add. (Just google “the importance of reading aloud to children” when you get a chance. There is a TON of information about why reading aloud is so very important.) While growing in my desire to read more good books with my kids, I was introduced to The Read Aloud Revival at a homeschool conference. I loved all the encouragements, helps, and book suggestions she made. She cast such wonderful vision for reading aloud, so I wanted to find a great book to start with my kids.

At some point over at the Read Aloud Revival they started chatting up a book about some rabbits with swords. I continued seeing positive reviews and recommendations for the book, so I grabbed a kindle download for it and jumped into our first, official homeschool read aloud.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially from the then 3 year old! But I was determined, so slowly and steadily we worked through The Green Ember. It wasn’t long before phrases like, “what’s going to happen next momma?” and, “will you read one more chapter?” started flowing from my kids. I was so excited by how much they were engaging with the story. Granted, the youngest would mainly play with toys during the reading time, but he was contained and pretty much staying put. I counted that as a success. 🙂

Something I noticed as we went along through the story was an increase in their comprehension and recall. Before we began read aloud for the day I asked them what happened where we left off the day before, and most of the time they were able to remember exactly where we were and what had happened in the story. Amazing! This momma was so excited to see my kids’s brains hard at work!

Yet, there was another aspect that reading this lovely story with my kids brought that has been truly transformative: our conversations. 

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While reading The Green Ember with my kids, we encountered themes of heroism, persevering in light of trials, family loyalty, bravery, good vs. evil, and many other wonderful topics. Each of these sparked conversations between me and my kids, and even at 7 and 5 years old they were able to discuss these themes in light of what we read. This book opened up the doors of thinking through the text and looking for bigger themes. It facilitated sweet conversations, and ultimately, helped us fall in love with read aloud time. I believe, and hope, that what happened here was a laying of a beautiful foundation for the future. I want them to love literature. Good, rich, beautiful literature. And, I want them to interact with it. Think through what they are reading. Discuss it, ponder it, and learn from it. We deepened our relationship as we talked and discussed things we encountered in this book, and I am eager for the conversations that we will have down the road as we read more and more together.  

Etched within this heroic tale of two Rabbits, Heather and Pickett, are the timeless virtues of truth, goodness, and beauty. The author of The Green Ember, S.D. Smith says: 

“I’m probably not a competent critic, and a lot of modern storytelling is really good. But what we often see missing is the connection to the truest reality, to something solid, deep, beautiful and bright, meaningful, and most of all anchored in hope….What was great about C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and Chesterton is that they weren’t just products of their day. They were torchbearers for timeless truth, beauty, and goodness, which stood out in winsome contrast to the storytelling of their era. And it still stands apart today.”

Not only does he see the importance of virtue and the need of it in stories, but Smith is also a champion of cultivating and sparking imagination in children. He says:

“Stories shape our longings and affections in a way that nothing else can. The stories we love as children chart our course in ways that even the best possible instruction never can. I want to tell fun stories. I want to serve them up like a good meal – dessert and all! But I want there to be an aftertaste, be it ever so faint, of glory. Of wonder. Of hope.”

Imagination, creativity, and wonder are some of the greatest ingredients in childhood, and I appreciate the work of S.D. Smith as he was able to draw these out in my kids through his book. I loved seeing their creativity and imagination in action as they used makeshift swords to fight off the “bad guys” in our yard. 

And speaking of creativity, my kids loved the illustrations throughout the book! Owen even tried his hand at illustrating some of the scenes of the book himself! (Can you guess which ones are Owen’s and which one is illustrator Zach Franzen’s?)  😉 

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Our family loved this book and we highly recommend it to you and your family to read and enjoy! Through reading The Green Ember I saw my kids grow in loving read aloud time, an increase in their recall and comprehension, and then my favorite, growing in our conversations around a good book. Such a lovely and sweet time. 

We CANNOT wait for the sequel, Ember Falls, to be released!

Thank you, thank you Mr. Sam  and Mr. Zach for this wonderful series of books and for your hope and vision for them.

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**To help be a part of making the sequel, Ember Falls, a reality, jump over to the Kickstarter campaign to preorder the book! Only about 2 weeks left, and they are so close to the goal!**

To find out more about author S.D. Smith and illustrator Zach Franzen, check out their websites:

http://www.sdsmith.net/

http://zachfranzen.com/

What has been your family’s favorite read aloud? What benefits have you seen from reading aloud to your kids?

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