A bare-bones homeschool library and reluctant readers

A homeschool library

Earlier this summer I was asked the following:

Since you keep your at home book collection small, I'd love to hear about which books you do think are worth owning vs. borrowing.

People will disagree with me on this but I don't think it's worth owning much, that's what the public library is for. We have 2 not-so-big bookshelves and don't intend to buy more. Children's books we do own:

  1. One shelf of hard covered, modern, visually appealing reference materials - the human body, geography, dictionary, animals, history, oceans. You get the idea. Usborne, Kingfisher, DK publishing type. I bought most of these through Scholastic book sales. Scholastic has a warehouse in Maine and a few times a year they have awesome sales. I've never spent more than $3 for a brand-new book at these events.
  2. Softcover science and Magic School Bus type (1/2 shelf), picture books and little kid stories (1/2 shelf). All of these were either gifts, hand-me-downs or book sale finds. As the kid's outgrow them or interests change we get rid of them.
  3. One third of a shelf for hard and soft cover craft & science experiment books. I've picked up the experiment books at bookstore sales and let the kids attempt the projects themselves. The craft books I've mostly bought new since for me they are harder to find at sales. The kids also peruse and attempt these projects mostly independently.
  4. One shelf devoted to series & chapter books, American Girl, Little House and such. I will keep them till all the kids have outgrown them. Another shelf for animal stories, classics and award winners. I have a mental list of books that I look for at sales, used book shops and such. We'll keep these till all the kiddos have outgrown them. Right now only Celine has read them.
  5. One coffee table sized drawer filled with nature study guide books, like the type talked about in Great Books for an Outdoors Education

Our routine is to visit the library each week and on average check out 20 - 30 books (between 3 children) each week. Easy readers, graphic novels, picture books, historical fiction and non-fiction, general fiction and non-fiction, reference materials, chapter books, poetry, books on cd, and magazines. Reading is how we homeschool. Which brings me to my next point...

Reluctant Readers

Your 8 year old doesn't read yet? please tell me more about that...my seven year old isn't really reading either (well, simple words only) and i've been concerned...it's good to know we're not freaks because our kids aren't reading at 4...

I really don't have a lot of wisdom to share. My first born was reading around 6 and at 10 has devoured more books than I can possibly count. My challenge with her is trying to keep her interested in the children's room chapter books when her reading level is young adult (but she's not ready for the content in those books).

Our son, number two, is 8.5 and only recently read his first easy reader book cover to cover. Damien taught him and our youngest, almost 7, to read using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons last year. But neither of them is very motivated to go much beyond that. They can read, they just would rather look at the pictures and listen to me read!

This is something I'm working on right now. I'd like them to become a bit more independent in this area because there is stuff they want to know and if they could read it for themselves it would make my life easier! Our son is starting to experience frustration with only understanding pictures and not words on the page. I'm hoping this will the be motivation he needs to apply himself to practicing.

We've tried "read 3 easy readers out loud and get a reward" approach. They both stopped after the 1st book (The Foot Book by Dr. Suess) and these two are usually motivated by prizes. If anyone has any ideas I'd love to hear them. I'm not worried or anxious about this because I KNOW they are intelligent, articulate and Laurent especially is a good communicator but so much more of the world would open up to them if they would choose to read more. Having a first born who is voracious reader set the bar kind of high I guess.


With children in the teen and pre-teen years, we continue to keep a small hardcopy library, but our digital acquisitions are many and varied. (Oh, and we have virtually no local library to speak of in our new community, which I will write about someday I'm sure.) 

You can read more about how we keep books in small spaces and some thoughts on digital resources in the following posts:

So it turns out our son is dyslexic. He wasn't a reluctant reader, he was a "challenged" reader. We just couldn't tell the difference in the early years. You can read more about that discovery in this post.

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  • steadymom

    steadymom on Aug. 28, 2009, 2:20 p.m.

    I just LOVE the way you school, Renee! It's so similar to our home, even though my three are younger than yours. So you're my "one-step-ahead" mama to learn from!

    We do spend significantly on books, but only high quality ones, not just b/c they are at a yard sale or a really good deal. We only want the best of the best at home permanently. But we still use the library frequently.

    Love hearing your thoughts about reading. Trishna isn't very interested right now either, at age 6. I go from being fine with that to being panicked - usually only when others "expect" her to be reading when she isn't. She absolutely LOVES books, though, and looks at them constantly....


    steadymom's last blog post... Celebrating....


  • Andie

    Andie on Aug. 28, 2009, 2:34 p.m.

    Oh this was so fun to read. I love talking books and getting kids to read and read more! We taught our younger three how to read using an old 1950's Dick and Jane book. Crazy it sounds I know, but they actually had the phonetics down right when they made that book. My three loved the silly stories, it is full of repitition but not obnixously so like in the Dr. Suess books. It boosted their self esteem, helped them recoginize "site" words...it really is great. You can find it online or in just about any chain book store.

    My oldest, like yours is a book lover. Reading at 3, just finished reading war and peace last year for fun. I would suggest the classics for your older reader...some Little Women kinda stuff. Ok I should go, I could talk books forever. xxoo, a.


  • nicola

    nicola on Aug. 29, 2009, 3:47 a.m.

    renee, i love reading about your experiences. homeschooling is unfamiliar to me. i just asked about homeschooling today, but you don't need to answer unless there is something specific, because i am perusing all your links! as for books...can't help it. i love them. we have a lot, but most have been gifted/free and we do try to pass along some too. my mom is a librarian and their house is LOADED with books, so just because you love and use libraries, doesn't mean you are free from book hoarding! ;) nicola http://whichname.blogspot.com

    nicola's last blog post... the big K and a lot of link love


  • Max Elliot Anderson

    Max Elliot Anderson on Aug. 29, 2009, 12:40 p.m.

    It's so important to draw attention to reading, and attract reluctant readers to it,especially boys.

    I grew up as a reluctant reader, in spite of the fact that my father published over 70 books. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for tween boys, that avid boy readers and girls enjoy just as much.

    My blog, Books for Boys http://booksandboys.blogspot.com is dedicated to drawing attention to the importance of reading.

    Keep up your good work.

    Max Elliot Anderson

    Max Elliot Anderson's last blog post... Be-A-Famous-Writer CONTEST at Mrs P Com


  • Kika

    Kika on Aug. 29, 2009, 7:02 p.m.

    We certainly love books, like most homeschoolers and yet dislike clutter. I decided a few years back NOT to buy another book shelf - we have "2 1/2" IKEA shelving units plus each of us have a personal collection in our rooms (not huge). We use the library regularly (thank you, inter-library loans!) and twice a year or so I go through our books and give some away. I do love the idea of finding special classics for my kids that they add to their personal collections and hope that, one day, they'll share them with their own children.


  • Jenn

    Jenn on Aug. 31, 2009, 3:35 p.m.

    Well, we have enormous amounts of books, so we differ there...but I think having them makes them more likely to be "readers"...they can pick up any book at any time and read. My son didn't read until he was about 7 or 8 but he is a voracious reader now. The challenge was finding books he was interested in. Once I did, he read because he was interested in the subject matter and become quite a good reader on his own.

    My oldest daughter, Maddie, was reading at age 4 or 5 and could read the Bible quite well on her own at 5. I actually taught her to read using "Fun with Pets" from Abeka books. It sounds crazy, but that one book is the one that has taught every child since then to read!

    We go through the pages step-by-step and when the whole book is finished, we go on to readers. My Hannah learned to read by age 7. Jo is 7 and is starting to read. So 7 seems to be the "norm" with my Maddie being the exception. I get the distinct feeling my 5 year old boy could read now but I haven't worked with him. He seems more ready than my others have been. I just wish I had more time to do one-on-one stuff with him...with six kiddos, it's hard to find time to do much of anything. :0)

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts here...hope mine are helpful to someone as well.


  • Molly

    Molly on March 27, 2010, 7:22 a.m.

    I love the public library and have a bit of a thing for books! New England has some of the best libraries (systems) I have ever visited! I love NE, born and bred in MA (and lived in RI to for a bit)! Thanks for another great post!


  • Leilani

    Leilani on Oct. 17, 2010, 6:13 a.m.

    We have been the beneficiaries of a great number of books. And I've been holding on to them, not sure what was important, what we would need, etc. It's not gluttony, I told my husband, just a case of not knowing what to do.

    In just the last few weeks I've been developing a working philosophy - keep the really good ones...good in topic, writing, and illustrations. And let the others find other loving homes. (So many reasons to hoard books, I needed a book culling mantra to keep me on the straight and narrow!)

    I've already been through the collection once and had set the evening's activity as another culling session. And lo and behold, here you were with this post...affirmation! inspiration! I fairly jogged to the bookcase... Thank you!


  • Angela Bay

    Angela Bay on Nov. 4, 2013, 10 p.m.

    I have a son who is 7 1/2 and is a picture looker more than a reader as well. I found he is motivated by his love for electronics. I let them read aloud a book or section of a book and he then gets 15 min. of game time on my tablet. This is my son who potty trained when bribed with Tale Spin the t.v. show! He is highly motivated by external things.


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