We are huge fans of reading in our house. I think reading with your children from a very young age can have a profound impact on their lives. They learn that there is no such thing as boredom – for there is an adventure available at their fingertips and is as free as a trip to the local library. They are set upon a path to life-long learning ~ for both personal and intellectual growth.
And… I cannot express the amount of joy we have shared or the bonds we have strengthened through stories in our home. My kids are no longer little ~ both are teens more than capable of reading on their own. But the memories and bonds we formed from sharing literature are still a strong undercurrent in our relationships today. It is something that can truly never be taken away. Priceless, as they say.
I had always understood that one day reading aloud to them at bedtime would come to a bittersweet end. What I discovered moreover, is that it simply evolved over time. As they grew, the stories became longer (some taking months to complete), and more complex – as did our dialogue after a chapter or the completion of a story or series. What remained steadfast however, was a very simple truth: it was a nice way to unwind after a busy day and escape into another world.
It has made me giggle at times how much the kids (15 & 18!) would still allow me to read aloud if I began, and we regularly volley quotes or theories over dinner or on road trips. We speak a language with one another that transcends generation and time, allowing us to quickly levy a point in discussion, diffuse an argument, or foster lighthearted banter. We enjoy revisiting the stories we know well, many of which are classics and they now find referenced in their lit classes in high school and college. Having a frame for literature in their lives has had benefit not only at home, but in the classroom, on stage, in the athletic arena, and even lent itself to a near full-ride scholarship into an accelerated college honors program.
This is one tradition I would not change for anything… and I’m grateful that they allow me to continue to share a love for books with them. I hope this will be something we will all continue to look back on and remember fondly.
The true glory of this tradition is its simplicity... it is truly, fully, and 100% customizable.
Choose what you want, what suits you and yours. Enjoy the time. That really is everything. Trust me- you may feel at times like you are on a repeat loop for eternity, but it truly is fleeting & only comes around once . Embrace it. When they are small let them nuzzle into you, and allow yourself to be present in an adventure together. As they grow, use stories to stay connected. It works.
If you are looking for a place to start, check out some recommendations below. It is by no means an exhaustive syllabus ~ just a humble list of a few tried & true:
Birth to 2yrs:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michel Rosen
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
Picture Books ages 2-8
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard *(I remember LOVING this book when I was about 6. Still have the paperback copy that I ordered through my first Scholastic Book Club at school.) ;)
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton *(Both kids loved this book. We couldn’t read it often enough, especially when The Boy was little and fascinated by cars/trucks/tractors. I didn't always understand or appreciate the allure, but both lobbied for this one to make the list, so here it is).
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats *(classic.)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault *(we had this with a sing-a-long CD. The song made it more fun….)
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin *(again – classic. I love Snowflake Bently. And snowflakes for that matter. A post for another day perhaps).
Blueberries for Sal by Robery McCloskey *(Sorry for so many personal notes – but again, I remember checking this book out at the library in first grade. EVERY week. Until the librarian gently asked me if I would mind giving other children the opportunity to check it out as well. I’ve always wondered if my mother put her up to it – as I’m sure she couldn’t take another minute of “Ka-plink, Ka-plank, Ka-plunk……) ;)
*Librarian love to the late Mrs. Gilchrist - my elementary school's Patron Saint to budding bibliophiles. xo*
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak *(Classic. Maurice Sendak was a genius. His stories & illustrations are timeless).
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg *(received this from one of my dearest and oldest friends, Karin, for The Boy when he was a toddler. Came with a CD of Liam Neesan narrating the story. He listened to it every night between Thanksgiving & Christmas from ages 3 to 12. He knows the story by heart – and recites it annually at tree trimming, as you can imagine.)
The Mitten by Jan Brett *(fantastical! The Girl ~an animal lover, has always adored this story, and the brilliant illustrations that accompany).
Beginning Readers: ages 5-7
Little Bear by else Holmelund Minarik
Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder *(I adored this series as a little girl. My daughter, who could barely imagine life as a pioneer, found it nearly fictional at times). ;)
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo *(One of my all time favorite books EVER. Even as an adult…)
*Fact: I kept this one. On the 'adult' bookshelf. Where it still resides today. I adore this delightful little treasure.*
Books for Middle Readers ages 8-11ish:
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo *(see the trend? Great books are often made into good movies…but I argue that the book is always better. Always.)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis *(the very definition of classic if ever there was).
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne *(There is nothing I don't adore about this little bear...)
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Harry Potter series *(We read this series aloud –twice. Took a year – but well worth it. Book 7 was the first one The Girl had heard before seeing the film….. she was riveted. They both also read the series on their own... I know the movies are out there, and unfortunately they dissuade some kids from enjoying the true genius that is JK Rowling's magical world.
*Personal note: This series is part of us. We took 15 & 18 to Harry Potter World for Christmas last year ~ the long held Christmas wish for The Boy (and all of us). He was also voted most likely to captain a quidditch team after HS, but I digress....
Holes by Louis Sachar
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan *(Current nightly read-aloud. Payton has read them….then proceeded to rock his unit on Greek Mythology last year….)
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson *(Love).
Books for older Readers ages 11-12+:
The Giver by Lois Lowry *(I wish this were required reading for everyone…we had some profound conversations after this one. Kids get it, makes it astounding that more adults don’t seem to…)
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babitt
The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien *(LOTR also quoted quite frequently...as well as launched political debate, battle strategy, alliance & loyalty, character...).
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
The Alchemyst – The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott *(more mythology fun)
Non-fiction, Extras and All Ages:
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum
And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz
How Much is a Million? by David Schwartz
Bard of Avon: The Story of Shakespeare by Diane Stanley
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Anderson by Hans Christian Anderson
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
Where the Sidewalk Ends: poetry by Shel Silverstein
Add any/all biographies, non-fiction works on history, religions and cultures around the world, to help them better understand the world we live in and prepare them for a well-rounded future.
There are so many many more– but here is a smattering of recommendations from our long and ever-changing list of great reads. :)
What are your favorites?=