Interview With Sarah Mackenzie From Read Aloud Revival Podcast

I’m so excited about sharing today’s read aloud post! Around the fall of last year I stumbled onto the Read Aloud Revival podcast. This podcast is hosted by Sarah Mackenzie from Amongst Lovely Things.  I was instantly drawn in to the podcast because I’ve always loved the experience of reading aloud with my kids, and, because I’m an avid reader, reading aloud has always been the norm for our family. In the podcast, Sarah hosts great guests like Andrew Pudewa, Adam Andrews, Sarah Clarkson, and so many more.

Around the same time I began listening to Read Aloud Revival, several local homeschoolers had conversations with me about reading. And I began to realize that not every family – even within the homeschool community- has experienced the wonderful blessing of reading aloud as a family. I caught Sarah’s passion for encouraging families to read aloud. And, through that I decided to begin hosting this weekly Read Aloud Wednesdays post and link up. I love to share our experiences reading aloud, and I love to hear what other families are doing to make reading aloud a part of their days.

Without further ado, I’ll introduce Sarah and post this wonderful interview with her. Don’t forget to link up your reading related posts below.

An interview with Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival

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Sarah Mackenzie is a homeschooling mom who blogs at Amongst Lovely Things. Sarah is also the author of a book- Teaching From Rest: A Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakable Peace. And she hosts the podcast Read Aloud Revival where she talks with some great speakers about reading aloud: the how tos, the benefits, and more. Recently she also launched a membership site in conjunction with the podcast. (Of course I had to join!) On the site she has all kinds of goodies like workships, printables, transcripts of the podcasts and much more.

Because Read Aloud Revival has been such a blessing for me, I asked Sarah if she would be willing to answer some questions about the podcast and about reading aloud.

You often refer to your family in the podcast. Can you tell readers a little about them? How many children do you have?

Six! Our first batch of kids are 13, 11, and 9. We thought that was going to be it, but God sent us another batch recently, so we have a 3 year old and twin almost-2 year olds. My husband Andy and I (and that whole passel of kiddos, of course) live in the Northwest, and my crew keeps me wonderfully happy and wonderfully busy. 🙂

Sarah, how did you become passionate about reading aloud with your family? Is it something you’ve always done as a mom or is it a passion that has developed as your family has grown?

I’ve always read aloud to some degree, but it wasn’t until I heard Andrew Pudewa from the Institute for Excellence in Writing talk about the importance of copious reading aloud after our children can read for themselves that a fire was really lit beneath me.

In that talk (it’s called Nurturing Competent Communicators, and you can listen to it for free at the IEW website), Andrew says that we need to read to our older children a TON– hours and hours and hours. I was really moved by that message and gave it a real go, reading to my oldest three kids for hours and hours every day. I was floored at what I saw.

Our family culture was changed for the better, the kids’ vocabulary soared, and we all just enjoyed each other and our lives so much more. It didn’t take me long to realize that read-alouds were going to be a major part of our family life from then on.

Even now (when I can’t manage to read aloud for hours and hours with three toddlers underfoot!) I can see the tremendous difference it makes in our family life when we’re carving out the time to read together, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.

With kids of varying ages, how do you choose books to read aloud?

C.S. Lewis has this wonderful quote, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” I think that’s so true! I find that really good books appeal to all of us, no matter who the intended audience is. That said, I do shoot for about the middle, figuring that an easy read-aloud is still delightful for my oldest ,and stretches the vocabulary of my younger one.

Does your whole family do read aloud time together or do you read aloud to separate kids or groups?

I tend to read to the older three kids as a group, though one thing I’d really like to do this summer is read a book to each child on their own. I’m trying to think through the logistics of that. 🙂

I read to my kids in batches– the older three and the younger three. 🙂 If we’re on a long car ride, we listen all together and that’s a joy- especially if it’s one of the Little House audio books read by Cherry Jones. Even my husband gets into those.

Because you have some older kids and some younger, do you find that your older kids wnjoy reading aloud to the younger ones?

They do! And they’re really good at it- using lots of inflection and fun expressions. 🙂

Where do you find the books you want to read aloud? Do you have some great book list resources?
My favorites are Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson, and Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson. Not all books are equal when it comes to reading aloud, and some books- though they make great read alones- can be tricky to read aloud! I talk a little more about that in episode 24 of the podcast, explaining how there are a few key things you want in a read aloud (engaging characters, short chapters, that kind of thing).

A reliable booklist is absolutely imperative for every parent who wants to make reading aloud a pillar of family life, I think.

Because I seem to have an ever growing number of books that are taking over my home, I have to ask: do you purchase great books and build a family library or do you utilize your local library?

We do both, though sometimes I wonder why I use the library– our fines run up so high, we probably could have financed a fairly robust library of our own if we had just bought instead of borrowed! 😉

I tend to borrow first, and then if it’s a book we absolutely adore, I buy it. Most often, I buy from used bookstores or garage sales- over time, I’ve developed an eye for reliable authors, so it’s not so hard to find really good books for great deals.

As your children are getting older, do they choose to read independently? Do you think they enjoy reading more because they have the foundation of reading aloud?

We have to set rules about how much our kids read in our house because they are reading all! the! time! 🙂 I think that is in large part due to their exposure to lots of reading aloud– I also think it has to do with the time and freedom they have as homeschoolers to read long and hard and whatever their heart desires.

I don’t, however, think this is always the case. Some read-aloud families I know don’t have avid independent readers, so I hate for anyone to think that just because their children don’t read a lot for pleasure means they’ve done something wrong. We’re all wired differently, and I don’t anticipate that all of my six children will be equally voracious readers.

How did the Read Aloud Revival Podcast come to be?

I got a bee in my bonnet about reading aloud. I just was so excited about the shape our family culture was taking as a result of reading aloud, I couldn’t stop talking about it! And when I had tired out all of my friends and family, I got myself a mic so I could keep going. 😉

It was my dream as a young girl to be a morning news radio broadcaster. I think that dream just grew up a little bit and I’m doing what I really always wanted to do. 🙂 The podcast is my favorite thing to do online- I just love connecting with the wonderful guests on the show- they inspire me and teach me so much.

Can you tell us a little bit about the new membership site?

Oh, I just love that place. It’s been my dream since launching the podcast to create a place where families could go to really build their family culture around books- to troubleshoot problem areas (like choosing books, reading in great voices, or simply making time to make it happen), and create a like-minded community.

The truth is, reading aloud consistently is a bit more complicated than just picking up a book and reading it. We can have the best intentions to do that book after book, year after year, but life happens and our enthusiasm dwindles. The membership site is a place to keep that fire going– to maintain excitement, to get the tools and practical help that will help overcome problems that arise along the way, and to raise up a community of like-minded people who want to build their family culture around books.

We’ve just gotten started, really- there are video workshops, cheat sheets, live author events- lots of good stuff there now, but we are adding to it every week. I am so excited to see where the Read-Aloud Revival Community goes with it. It’s gonna be awesome.

(You can get to it here.)

I have to ask- just because you make all of your interviewees tell you, and I love this question!- If you were stranded on an island and could take with you only three books, what would they be?

Oh, I’ve been waiting for someone to ask! 😉 Except that’s a really hard question, so now I’m unsure of myself! Assuming the Bible is already tucked somewhere on the island (because it would be, I’m sure):
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Complete Shakespeare
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

(and I’m totally cheating, like all of my guests do, by bringing series of books!)

I loved reading Sarah’s answers! I think one that I totally agree with is that not all kids who are read to become avid readers. I happen to have two that have turned out to love reading and two who will only read when something really grabs them. But I do think that being read to is great because it gives them that exposure to great stories even if they don’t read them for themselves.
Make sure you check out Read Aloud Revival- the podcast and the membership- and you can get inspired to read aloud and make reading an important part of your family culture. 

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