I thought I’d follow up my read aloud post with a list of some of the many books we’ve shared as a family, and a few more words on the approach we’ve taken to choosing what we read.
Some parents who are passionate about reading to their kids have strong feelings about choosing only the best of literature to read aloud. I get this. Reading aloud is a great investment of time and energy, and a compelling argument can be made for only expending those resources on what will teach and edify. However, I have discovered that I treat our read-aloud choices a lot like I treat our diet. The backbone of our home library are books with solid “nutritional” value– powerful language, meaningful themes and strong characters. And then there are the occasional treats, the Junie B Jones that makes us laugh so hard we can’t see the page, or the Bad Kitty book brought home from the library and read dramatically, with a wary eye toward our own sleeping feline.
These are the bit of chocolate now and then, and they are fun.
These kinds of decisions, about what to read and how to regulate the tone of the overall “book diet” are as individual as so many other family choices. My boys are fine with the suspense in the 39 Clues books and the danger of the Wingfeather saga, but they do not want me to read them a book where a beloved dog (or other animal) dies at the end.
We have begun books only to abandon them, unfinished, when we were not engaged with story or characters. We’ve found wonderful surprises in books we did not expect to like, and discovered that a book can be great devoured alone but a lackluster read aloud. And in times of stress or sadness, there are a few books we return to and read aloud again for the comforting atmosphere they create.
I wish I’d kept a list of every read aloud we’ve enjoyed, with the boys’ reviews, but all I have are our own bookshelves and some jotted titles of the many library books we’ve enjoyed. Below is my list, but I’m always looking for our next great shared story.
- The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The Penderwicks and sequels
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
- the Ramona books
- the Henry Huggins books
- The Wingfeather Saga
- The Mysterious Benedict Society
- The Cricket in Times Square
- 100 Cupboards
- Caddie Woodlawn
- The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- The 39 Clues The Maze of Bones
- The Jesus Storybook Bible
- Melendy Family Series
- Gone Away Lake
- Trixie Beldon and the Secret of the Mansion
- The Invention of Hugo Cabret
- The Incorrigible Children of Asheton Place
- The Tale of Despereaux
This list is clearly incomplete, (picture me slapping my forehead repeatedly over the rest of the day, remembering titles I’ve not included), and in no particular order. When a book is the first of several, we have usually read the whole series, with the exception of Harry Potter and the 39 Clues, which the boys have gone on to complete on their own. Other books the boys have loved (I’m looking at your blue spines, Hardy Boys) do not make stellar read-alouds.
But these are the ones that have stayed with me, that rise with their talking mice and mysterious doors and wooded paths and windswept prairies in my mind’s eye like old friends. But better even than these transporting images are the ones I’ve peered over their pages toward– my boys; faces, alive to story.