Please suggest books for re-starting narration!


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  • kymom

    My four oldest are in school – 10, 9, 8 and 6. I’ve done a fair amount of narration with the two oldest in past years and just a little bit with the 8 year old last year. 6 hasn’t really done any to speak of.

    When we started school this past August, we dropped narration all together because I just didn’t have time for it with adding in the 4th child. After a period of just 3R’s, we added some daily poetry time back in.

    Now I’d like to start adding narration back in, but I’m unsure how to start. Part of the reason I dropped it was because I spent so much time reading to each kid for his narration last year– at the time when I stopped, 8 got a whole chapter of Stuart Little each day, 9 got a chapter of Cricket in Times Square, and 10 got Anne of Green Gables. This took a huge amount of time every day and was too overwhelming.

    Here’s where we are now:

    10 has the most experience narrating and usually does a great job at recalling lots of detail, correct order, etc. She can enjoy simpler books, but her preference right now is Tolkien. What books can I choose for narration for her that won’t be under her level, but won’t take much of my time to read? Something that just a small amount (5 min or so) of my reading aloud will give her something substantive to narrate?

    9 isn’t a great narrator, doesn’t have a lot of attention to detail, and often misses large amounts in her retelling, but she at least knows the general process. She could use a lot more practice with it. She’s at a lower level than 10 in what she enjoys. I think short things to narrate would help so she doesn’t have as much to remember at once.

    8 hasn’t had much practice, but this boy is a very natural narrator. We are reading Misty of Chincoteague as a family read aloud and he spent a long time yesterday recounting the round up chapter to his dad, including every little detail.

    6 has had hardly any narration at all. I asked him to tell me about something we read earlier this week and he really couldn’t pull anything together, which brought to my attention that we need narration as part of our school days! I am thinking about something simple like Frog and Toad stories for him to start with?

    That’s where all my kids are. What I’m looking for are books that don’t require a whole chapter/long read to get something substantial for narration so I’m not investing the time I did last year. It needs to be short or I won’t be able to do it.

    I also have another question. What are your thoughts about using for narration something the child has heard before? Charlotte emphasizes that the child only hear it once, but I was reading Karen Glass’ book and she gives an example narration of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, which surely the child would have heard more than once in his life?

    Bible stories seem perfect to me because many are short, but if my children already know them, would this not really serve the purpose? Or would it still be good practice at processing and retelling what is important? So I’m wondering about this, and also about  the idea of using Frog and Toad stories for my youngest just starting, even though he’s heard them before?

    Thank you for any advice!

    Karen Smith

    Let me address the hearing only once idea. Charlotte Mason didn’t mean that a child should only read or be read a book or story only once in his life. What is meant by “hearing only once” is that when you are doing a lesson  you or your child should read the passage one time. There are no re-readings allowed for a lesson. In the case of a Bible story that a child may have read or heard in the past, if that story is the lesson for the day, one reading then a narration is what is expected. Also, if your child wasn’t paying attention to a lesson, you would not read the passage again. Instead you would tell your child that you are sorry he wasn’t paying attention and he missed that part of the story. You do have a couple of options for your child at that point. 1. You can leave it at that, “You missed it so you won’t have that information or part of the story to enjoy.” Or 2. “You can read it yourself when school lessons are over when you usually have free time.” Either option is a natural consequence for not being attentive to the lesson.

    As far as having time for readings and narrations, depending on the age of the child a reading AND narration should take about 20 minutes for younger children to 30 minutes for older children. For younger children that may look like reading for 15 minutes, then 5 minutes for oral narration. For older children that may look like 20 minutes of reading, then 10 minutes for a written narration.

    Also, if you are not already doing this, make sure that you begin each lesson with a quick narration of what happened in the last lesson’s reading. This helps connect the next reading with the last one and gives a natural review of previous material.


    Hi Karen,

    Thank you for explaining! I was always a bit puzzled by the “only once” concept because I myself love to revisit favorite books and often learn much more from them over time.

    Also, thank you for the recommended times for reading and narration. I’ll copy those out and attach to my school schedule.


    Why are you reading a different book to each child? I would pick one (either aim for the oldest or the middle) and have them all narrate the same book. Also, it doesn’t HAVE to be an oral narration every time. I have 6 children, 4 school-age, but the 5th likes to tag along too. Instead of oral narration after every reading sometimes we simply discuss, they draw/paint a narration, the older ones adding some labeling or a few sentences. Other times the older children will write a narration. In this busy season of life, mama can’t always get to oral narrations.


    Stephany, thank you for sharing your ideas! I’ve done different books in the past trying to get each child at their particular level or subject of interest, but that’s probably what’s making it too unrealistically hard for me right now. Thank you for the suggestions! I’ll try one book for a while and see how it goes for us.

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