It’s no secret that books are a big part of our homeschool day. We use books to learn about different places and cultures, gain new perspectives about events and eras, and to encourage empathy and understanding for life experiences that aren’t like ours. I believe teaching this way is powerful and that’s why I love sharing all the books we’re reading.
I share what we’re reading through book lists here on the blog, but I also share what we’re reading through Instagram stories. Since I started sharing our reading choices on Instagram, I’ve been asked frequently how we choose books. That’s why I’m pulling the curtain back and talking about how I find the best books for our homeschool.
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Here’s a sampling of the pile of books you’d see in our floor on any given day:
- Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
- Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling
- A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa
- When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne
- Buffalo Bill by Ingri D’Aulaire
- Can You Find It, Too? by Judith Cressy
- Following the Coast by Jim Arnosky
- Fables by Arnold Lobel
- Call It Courage by Armstrong Perry
Some of these titles, like poetry books and fables, have ongoing places in our reading piles because we work through them a little at a time over the course of a few months. Others are interesting library finds or topical selections to help dig deeper into something we’re studying.
How to Chose Books for Your Homeschool
In a nutshell, the books we read fall into one of two categories: curriculum-specific reading selections or our personal picks. Within our “required reading” and our other choices, there are three primary ways we choose books for our homeschool.
While none of these methods are particularly groundbreaking, each of them have been super helpful in helping me choose the best books to read with my kids and I’m happy to share them with you here.
1. Implement literature-based homeschooling
We don’t spend a lot of time in textbooks in the course of an average homeschool year. Come to think of it, I can’t think of any textbooks we use regularly. Instead, we build our homeschool around literature-based resources. That means good books are always the central focus of our learning.
Literature-based homeschooling has been a work in progress for us throughout our homeschool years. Because of that, I’ve learned a lot about what to look for in a picture book, chapter book, read aloud, and independent reading through some incredible resources.
Five in a Row
Using Five in a Row for kindergarten taught me how to look for amazing picture books and see more than a short story in the pages. It taught me how a picture book can cover geography, arts and culture, science, history, math, and language arts with little or no help from outside sources. It taught me how to see the full potential in a picture book.
As much as we love Five in a Row, it’s not the only resource that trained me to choose books for our homeschool. Using Ambleside Online for my daughter’s primary curriculum has also gone a long way in teaching me how to choose the best books for our homeschool.
Our “official” homeschool plans are centered around the book suggestions from Ambleside Online. That said, AO is our curriculum and is so much more than book lists, but the book lists themselves are a quick reference point for our slow-and-steady, Charlotte Mason-inspired reading selections.
Years before we were traveling around the world with Five in a Row or transitioning to a Charlotte Mason homeschool through Ambleside Online, Illuminations from Bright Ideas Press taught me how choose books that enhance our history lessons.
Illuminations is a classical comprehensive homeschool plan that centers around The Mystery of History, which means the books suggestions we met through Illuminations were chosen to compliment The Mystery of History lessons. Even so, I paid attention during our time using Illuminations and learned how to choose engaging books to go along with the historical events and eras we study.
Beautiful Feet Books
Teaching Character Through Literature from Beautiful Feet Books has also been instrumental in helping us choose the best books for our read aloud time. Since my kids are 6 and 12, I’ve usually got a foot in two different homeschool worlds as I work with them each day. Thankfully that’s different for our character-centered read aloud time.
By reading the suggested books through Teaching Character Through Literature, I’m able to keep my kids together for a while each day and share stories with a strong emphasis on positive character traits.
Better yet, since the curriculum comes with all the books needed and a study guide, there’s no time spent hunting them down and it’s easy to make the most of the books and the discussions they prompt.
2. Know your library
Knowing your library also goes a long way in helping to choose books for your homeschool. In fact, with the exception of our curriculum-specific reading selections, the library is where we discover most of our books. It may sound too easy, but we literally scan the shelves and displays to see what grabs our attention.
In other words, we do exactly what we’ve always been told not to do: we judge books by their covers. (And spines.)
There’s no magic formula to it, but becoming familiar with the selection goes a long way in helping me choose books for my kids to read. As I’ve become more and more familiar with the authors and titles I’ve noticed in previous trips, it’s easy to know what to look for when my kids develop new interests or we’re exploring new topics.
We’re also fortunate to have wonderful librarians who are always happy to make suggestions and help us find what we need. They’re definitely a gift to us when we’re looking for new reading ideas!
Now hear me out: I know that everyone doesn’t have access to an awesome library with superhero librarians, but I’ve never visited a library that wasn’t useful in some way. The big city libraries and multi-branch systems are incredible, but even small town libraries can be great for discovering new books.
Also, don’t get discouraged or frustrated if you don’t receive much help or find anything interesting at first or second glance. It takes time perusing the shelves and search engines to truly discover what’s available to you there.
3. Books About Books
Another great way to choose books for your homeschool is to familiarize yourself with books about books. That may sound like a strange suggestion, but there are several books I’ve turned to throughout our homeschool years to direct me as I search for our next pile of books. Here are my favorites:
- Give Your Child the World – I turn to this book about books the most because of the geographical and cultural emphasis. It shares reading suggestions broken down by continents and then age groups and countries.
- Honey for a Child’s Heart – This one is a a great overall go-to resource for help with choosing books for your homeschool. Similarly, Honey for a Teen’s Heart is a good one to own for your big kids.
- The Read Aloud Handbook – Another tried and true favorite, you’ll find research that supports the importance of reading, tips and techniques for enjoyable read alouds, and tons of reading suggestions.
Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read Aloud Family would also fall into this books about books category. Although I haven’t personally read this one yet, I can’t imagine being disappointed by it based on Sarah’s enthusiasm for good books.
In closing, I’d love to hear how you choose books for your homeschool. Share your best tips with us in the comments below!