Thursday, January 15, 2015

"On Living a Storyformed Life": An Interview with Sarah Clarkson

The day after I wrote on this blog about how much I love books, I was delighted to be directed to a podcast on the subject of fostering a reading culture in the home. Sarah Mackenzie did an interview with Sarah Clarkson called "On Living a Storyformed Life." Likely accurately, Mrs. Mackenzie advises that if you listen to only one of her Read-Aloud Revival podcasts, this should be the one: it is 45 minutes of inspiration!

Miss Clarkson runs the Storyformed website and does not yet have children herself, but grew up in a homeschooling family in which reading aloud was a primary means of education. She claims, I believe rightly, that "a reading culture in the home is one of the single biggest factors of educational success for children."

I loved hearing from the speaker about how, as she aged, she and her siblings began reading aloud stories to each other, a habit they continue to this day as grown adults. She explains how sharing favorite stories is considered a requisite part of their sibling relationships. Even this last Christmas, she and one adult brother spent weeks reading aloud a book to each other. What a beautiful aspect of a warm relationship!

"Education isn't a thing you do, it's a life." Now at 30 years old, Miss Clarkson feels odd if she hasn't read in a given day--a discontent I can absolutely attest to in my own life. As she says, it is a normal rhythm of every day life to be taking in and learning: isn't this what we want for our children?

Storyformed offers many book lists, which are probably wonderful, but the Catholic reader-parent would need to be consider them from a Catholic perspective. I do believe the speaker was raised in a devout Protestant home, so the books are likely very clean and decent classics. Still, every parent has to make decisions: for example, both the Catholic interviewer and the Protestant speaker wax fondly about of J.K. Rowlings' books, which I (who have read almost all of them) would not do.

I came away from this interview confirmed in my efforts to somehow carve out the time to be reading aloud so very often. We read aloud many books for our history program, and I'm usually reading aloud two chapter books simultaneously (currently, "Smoky the Cowhorse" and "First Farm in the Valley"). The two reading children have their own books for pleasure (currently "Misty of Chincoteague" and "Mary Poppins in the Park"). And the two little children hear plenty of picture books and board books--even if I do assign out some of that reading aloud to the older siblings! And it's a challenge (the First World kind of challenge) to gather the children round me and settle them over and over again so that I can read aloud.

But when I listen to a podcast like this or I hear my 8-year-old boy tell me this week, "Reading is the best thing in the world!", I am renewed to keep up the effort.


  1. I love the read aloud revival podcast. I have listened to them all. And yet I still rarely make the time to read aloud. Benjamin. Even though he reads daily (as part of school and then by choice before bed) insists that he doesn't really like books. (????!!!!). This is a heartbreaking confession to this momma. I find something downright disordered about a child as smart as Ben not liking to read!!??! I think he actually DOES like to read....because he does it voluntarily and tells me he is enjoying the stories. But there is something in his personality. He is a curmudgeon at heart (no....not genetic at all!!!). Anyway I MUST change this attitude. My kids have little interest in listening to me read and maybe it is simply because I don't do it enough. And I don't read a lot in front of them. I read daily, but it is always once they are in bed. So perhaps these are two things I need to change. REad more myself. And read to them more even if they don't seem interested. *sigh*

  2. Jamie: I don't want you to feel as discouraged about this as you do! Ben is both a boy (which I think often makes a difference) and he's still quite young. I remember my son now 8 would read what he was assigned during school, but he wouldn't open up books. I'd tell him repeatedly that if he could read such-and-such for school, he could open up any number of books and read them for pleasure, but he'd say no, he wasn't interested. I think he was seven when the switch "clicked" and he suddenly began reading on his own for pleasure.

    Yes, I think playing audio books (at Quiet Time, in the car), reading aloud stories, and having him see you with a nose in a book would help too. But, still, he's mostly just very young!