Reading Aloud…

One activity that I find so important in nurturing a love of reading in my children is reading aloud to them.  I admit, we are not as constant in this area as I wish we were.  We vacillate between voraciously consuming books together to the opposite extreme of not reading aloud for several weeks.  Whenever we do it though we are reminded of how much we love it and how much the children enjoy it, as well as how strongly it effects their play and the breadth of their imaginations.

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I will never forget the time when we had been reading an abridged version of the classic, Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson.  One evening while I was cooking dinner I overheard my then 5 year old and 3 year old playing.  They were arguing over which one of them was going to be Alan Breck and which would be Davie Balfour.  They’ve done this with just about every piece of classic children’s literature we’ve read to them (or they’ve read themselves) from The House at Pooh Corner to Gulliver’s Travels to The Chronicles of Narnia.  This kind of wonderful integration of literature into playtime impresses these stories into not only their minds but their memories of childhood itself, which as we know, are more resilient memories than any forced reading and quizzing could ever be.  Don’t get me wrong, they still play Star Wars and legos and all manner of other kinds of play, but there is always something inspiring about hearing them integrate the stories they’ve heard and let themselves imagine themselves a part of, into their play.

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We have been in an off mode lately though with regards to reading aloud.  Yesterday I felt the fire of neglect smoldering under me and I decided that we needed a new classic to read to the kids.  We settled on the very exciting Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  We went to the book store and made our purchase.  The Pastor began reading the first chapter right away and as you can see, the boys were immediately rapt.

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I think there is a mistaken concept out there that children must understand every theme and every ramification of every theme before they can enjoy listening to or reading classic literature.  I do not believe this.  I think that the earlier we start them on these stories the more their fascination will grow, even as their understanding and ability to reason ripens with age.

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I’m not saying to pull out Crime and Punishment or Native Son and set everyone down for a nice family evening by the fire, but be bold… pick up a piece of classic literature and watch your child’s imagination grow.

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12 thoughts on “Reading Aloud…”

  1. Great photos. Beautiful light, I especially love the one where he is resting his head. I agree wholeheartedly. I’m really looking forward to getting started on some ‘real’ books. It’s fun to evolve into real storyland and out of the board books.

  2. Yes, I agree 100%. I read Charlotte’s Web to my 4 year old daughter and she loved it! I’m going to check out one of the classics you mentioned and try to read to my 2 year-old as well. I LOVE children’s picture books and so that is what we read the most of! And they definitely enjoy those books and have their favs. They also act out the stories we read! Which makes me smile 🙂

  3. Nan, I’ve been meaning to ask you this anyway…thanks for reminding me…! Could you direct me to a list of classic kids literature?! Alaina & I have been reading Charlotte’s Web, and I’d like to keep the “trend” going… Often I will stop and ask her questions to see if she’s listening and comprehending…she’s usually right there with me…though it can be hard to tell while she’s “fiddling” around…! Thanks!

  4. Sandy (and others)–

    There are two (at least) good books that deal with great books for kids.

    One is the book (several editions) by Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook. A review of him and his books can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Trelease

    The other is Honey For A Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. This one has a Christian perspective.

    Mom Olsson

  5. Hey Sandy, Hooray for Charlotte’s Web! :^D That was the first chapter book I read to B!

    Some that we have loved have been, Winnie The Pooh and House at Pooh Corner, (I seriously crack up laughing when I read these aloud. :^) , Trumpet of the Swan, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl can be a bit “in your face” but the word pictures he paints are priceless), Stuart Little, Ralph S. Mouse, any of the Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins books, Some of the abridged classics that might be hard for little ones to keep up with in their full form (like Gulliver’s Travels), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Treasures of the Snow (remember that?), A Child’s Garden of Verses and Where the Sidewalk Ends (like Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein can be sort of “in your face” too but again, his word pictures are priceless… and with read alouds you can also just skip the parts you don’t so much want to read.) :^D We’re about to read Peter Pan when we are done with the current book…
    The books Mom listed are the standard books where you’ll find endless lists. I’m sure you can find old copies (either at Mom’s house!) or on half.com.

    Here are some others that we have not yet read aloud but that seem to be on just about every reliable list:
    Wonderful Wizard of Oz
    Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates
    The Borrowers
    The Black Stallion
    Black Beauty
    The Secret Garden
    Bambi
    The Wind in the Willows
    The Boxcar Children (series)
    Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Hansel and Gretel, etc.)
    The Jungle Book
    Pippi Longstocking
    The Chronicles of Narnia (if this seems too much now… we can lend you the dramatized CD version put out by Focus on the Family. I thought it might be cheesy before we listened to them but they are really good and the kids LOVE them… even Trevor when he was 2 and 3!)
    Heidi
    Mary Poppins
    Homer Price
    Little House on the Prairie (etc…) and Stories from Grandma’s Attic
    Lassie
    My Friend Flicka
    Rip Van Winkle
    Doctor Doolittle
    Island of the Blue Dolphins
    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

    Here’s an more thorough list that takes you up through “high school level” reading material.

  6. I completely agree! You would be surprised the things that will keep their attention. One series my kids love to have read to them is the Chronicles of Narnia. My dad used to read that to me when I was little and now he reads it to my kids.

    Cassie’s last blog post..Show & Tell at Becentsable

  7. I devoured all these books as a child. It’s wonderful to see a family sharing these classics together. One I don’t see mentioned here that you might like is “Five Little Peppers and How They Grew” by Margaret Sydney. It is first in a small series of old classics, similar in feeling to “Little Women”. I practically wore a copy of this one out.

    Jennifer Robin’s last blog post..Dear Princess Cupcake,

  8. Hi Nancy,

    From your long lost cousin… Dad (Lane Levi) sent me the link to your Blog. I think because of the subject…

    While we are always reading out loud… We also listen to many novels in the Car that are way beyond their reading level… I have never given it much thought as we’ve been doing it since Cameron was a toddler… Books on Tape in the Car also helps keeping the kids from bugging each other during the drive. We just did “Feckle Juice”.

    We’ve done Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.. Huck Finn was the kids favorite of the two.

    We’ve done “Moby Dick” (not my choice… The kids choose it… Not Kidding) I personally would start on Chapter 21 as that’s when things began to pick up. This was a GREAT book for discussions as how the world view has changed so much in the past 100 years. It was worth all the 42 hours (well maybe the last 30 hours)… LOL…

    Narina Series… If listening on CD, get the newest versions, the older versions are very monotone…. We’ve done both.

    We’ve done Auto/Biographies like George Washington, Laura Ingles Wilder, Frank McCourt’s Autos (his books should be done abridged and noted that there IS adult language and “topics”. Again, we used it for discussion purposes as to explain how his life was so different from theirs. When we finished the first book, we even “honored” his tough childhood by eating Fried Bread and Tea for the day as that is all he had for many years. The kids loved all three books and we are on the wait list for the 4th book. We even were able to meet his brother at the local literally festival here in Kansas City last year. Helen Keller is always a great one. We are working on Local Missouri History. So our latest autos have included Samuel Clemens, Colt Younger (a local outlaw that rode with the Jesse James Gang) and Harry S. Truman…

    We’ve done other classics such as Hemmingway’s “Old Man in the Sea”. As we recently did a house swap for Key West, FL and knew that he had lived there.

    Some are non-fiction such as the star constellation in relationship to Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, which we studied during the winter. We also did quite a few Greek Mythology books that all the kids really enjoyed.

    Anything that Jim Dale as narrator are just fantastic… He does a lot of the Dave Barry books.

    A few of our favorite authors…
    Judy Blume
    Beverly Cleary
    Elizabeth Winthrop
    Mark Twain
    Patricia C. Wrede
    Frank B. Gilbreth,Ernestine Gilbreth
    Roald Dahl
    Homer Hickam
    Andrew Clements

    I had proof last week that it really does make a HUGE difference in the children’s vocabulary. A friend of Cameron’s came out for the week and we were just having “normal” conversation. Every few sentences the friend would ask what a word meant. Cameron mentioned to me, privately later, that he was surprised by the lack of vocabulary his friend had.

    We check out the books on CD or tape from our local library as they are VERY expensive to purchase. You can purchase on eBay for about 25%-50% off. We rarely listen more than once though as there is always something exciting coming up next.

    For purchasing the book Classics… Goodwill is GREAT!!!

    Enjoy…

    Lara

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