About once a week or so, I’ll be revisiting favorite content (yours and mine) from the old blog.  Here's a post about reading aloud with your family, edited with more book selections: Kate asked in the comments last week if I could share some tips on reading together as a family. Make it a priority.  The things we really commit to are the things that actually happen, right?  It seems obvious, but sometimes even the obvious takes commitment and work.  Reading aloud was part of my adult life long before I had kids.  I'm not a big fan of driving, but my husband was happy to do it as long as I read aloud (Sherlock Holmes, Raymond Chandler).  Another of our family priorities is having dinner together.  Wouldn't it be easy to say, one child has a baseball game at 5:30 and the other has track practice at 6 so a family dinner just won't happen?  Instead, we have been eating a lot of 8:30 dinners.  (Of course we couldn't do that when the kids were younger, but they didn't have activities 4 nights a week when they were younger either.)  I try to focus on this:  the time we have with our kids as they're growing up is so short, how do I really want to spend that time? Which came first?  Were my kids born to feel pleasure at being read to or did we instill that joy by doing it?  (Probably some of each.  I'm so very lucky I have two kids who can listen and imagine.)  We started with board books, moved to picture books, then early chapter books (My Father's Dragon was our very first, when J was 4), then books that were slightly more advanced than they were.  The people who know say to read a couple of grade levels ahead when you're reading aloud -- the perfect opportunity to experience more complex sentence struture and vocabulary.  We took that advice with a grain of salt, as the kids are three years apart, and at some point, J was capable of reading everything anyway.  So we focus on the story itself and does it have the components that make it enjoyable reading -- which does include sentence structure & vocabulary, but also engaging characters, action, and humor. Announce your intentions.  I've been telling my kids since they were little, "I'm going to read aloud to you even when you're in high school."  (And since I first posted this two years ago, one of my kids really is in high school now.  Ta da!) Pick a time that works for you, when you can be consistent.  These days, about 75% of our reading is done in the car.  We even read on the way to grandma & grandpa's, which is 25 minutes away.  We read a lot more in the summer than we do the rest of the year.  Before I had kids, I read an article that suggested reading to your kids while they're washing the dishes.  Doesn't that sound lovely? We usually have several books going at once:  one for the whole family, one for me & Pete (short stories, revisiting Sherlock), one that I read with the boy.  And I wonder why it takes me three weeks to read a book of my own! Who will do the reading?  In our family, it's almost always me -- because I enjoy it.  My husband & I took turns reading the last part of Bridge to Terabithia, because neither of us could go more than a paragraph or two without getting overwhelmed by grief.  (And incidentally, I think that's one of the many benefits of reading together, when your kids see that you've entered that world too, and that you are openly expressing your emotions about it.  When J & I read Walk Two Moons, I cried so hard I had to put the book down.)  Sometimes J reads to us in the car if I'm driving or tired.  If you don't want to do all the reading yourself, you can make listening to audiobooks an event.  A few years ago, in the deep of winter, we switched from watching movies as a family to listening to an audiobook (The Thief Lord, narrated by Simon Jones -- highly recommended!), including all four of us snuggled up on the couch eating popcorn. Make it happen.  The sooner you start and the more consistent you are, the more your family will expect and even anticipate it.  For us, it is some of our most valued family time.  Here are a few other resources: Jim Trelease (author of The Read Aloud Handbook) The Books for Walls Project Summer Reading by one of my blog readers Newbery Medal booklist I also posted a list of favorite read aloud books back in 2008 -- and my, has that list grown in 5 years! bed book The Bed Book by Sylvia Plath (our all-time favorite picture book) Ramona books by Beverly Cleary (especially good as audiobooks, narrated by Stockard Channing) The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (my favorite is The Horse and His Boy) The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander Half Magic series by Edward Eager Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate diCamillo Mrs.Frisby and the Rats of Nimh poems by Calef Brown Frindle by Andrew Clements Harry Potter (read the entire series aloud twice) The Ranger's Apprentice series Number the Stars, The Giver, and The Willoughbys (all by Lois Lowry) Artemis Fowl series (enjoyed the first four the most) Gregor the Overlander (same author as The Hunger Games, which is also excellent discussion fodder when read together) The Mysterious Benedict Society series + prequel The Strictest School in the World + two sequels (really memorable characters) Everything ever written by Roald Dahl The City of Ember + The People of Sparks By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman Anne Ursu trilogy (we've read everything by Rick Riordan, but prefer this series for its quirkiness; feels a bit less formulaic than his books) Of course, I'm forgetting some and overlooking others (um, A Wrinkle in Time, and yes, I can hear you gasping that I overlooked it on purpose.  I was not a huge fan of The Phantom Tollbooth either, though my daughter's copy is pretty dog-eared).  If you have questions about any of these titles, or would like to suggest others, pretty please leave a comment.  I love to talk books!  Thanks to the comments last week, I've added The False Prince and Time at the Top to my libary list too.
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5 Responses to Best of the Blog: reading aloud.

  1. CJ says:

    A really great post Gina. I’m in the middle of a Secret Benedict Society book, I remembered your recommendation from before. And I have Gregor the Overlander on the shelf as well. Thank you for your reminder of how important it is to read aloud. I find that my children will then pick up the book and finish it themselves, although they wouldn’t necessarily have started that book out of choice.

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  4. […] more about my favorite read-aloud books here.  And let me know how you’re coming along for the 2014 Summer Reading […]

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