Every day I read aloud to the Podlings in my care: a group of five children currently covering an age spread from
fourteen down to four six to nearly-sixteen. Since more than a few people have asked how I choose the books to read aloud (or have asked for lists/recommendations), I thought that the time might be right to share what we've read together so far and where I plan to take them in the future.
But first, some disclaimers.
How I Choose Books to Read Aloud
Since I read a lot anyway, having access to an ever-expanding list of read-aloud possibilities isn't really a problem.
When the time comes to start a new book, my decision process goes something like this:
1) Have I read it and enjoyed it? I can't over-stress the importance of this step.
2) Will the kids understand it and like it? I balance toward the older ones in the group. The little ones get what they get -- which is a lot. For example, when I read The Last Battle to them, the four-year-old looked up at me one day about halfway through the book and asked, "Where's Susan?" Up to that point, none of the other podlings had noted her absence.
3) Has the author done at least one thing very well? Humor, drama, storytelling, characterization, suspense, research, etc. I require at least one standout category, but don't expect perfection in all areas from each book.
4) Does the read match the season? I'm all about reading the right books at the right time, which is why - as you'll see below - we sometimes take a break in the middle of a series to read something that matches the season.
Notice that I don't worry too much about asking if the book teaches a lesson or if I agree 100% with the author's point-of-view. First, I hardly ever agree 100% with anybody. Second, I'm not big on stories as morality tales. Great stories aren't written to teach lessons (although the best ones often do): great stories are written to be great stories, and those are the books I choose to read aloud. Third, one of the greatest skills children need to learn is discernment. What better hand to guide them through the process of analyzing what they're reading than yours? This, to me, is better than teaching them blind trust in books.
How You Should Choose a Book to Read Aloud
Take advice of the readers in your life, yes -- but don't take it blindly. Remember that if you're going to read a book aloud to children, you must read it to yourself first. No matter how highly the book has already come recommended or how much your friends or their kids may have liked it, that doesn't ensure that 1) you will like it (which is so important, since your enthusiasm can make or break the enterprise), or that 2) you will find it appropriate for your bunch. So be responsible about this.
But enough of that.
Without further ado...
Books I've read aloud to the Podlings, in the order that we read them:
- The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts, Richard Peck
- Derwood, Inc., Jeri Massi
- A Dangerous Game, Jeri Massi
- The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare
- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
- Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis
- The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (unabridged! woo!)
- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis
- The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis
- The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis
- A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein
- Summer of the Monkeys, Wilson Rawls
- Summer of Light, Dennis M. Van Wey
- A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle
- The Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts, Richard Peck (again! by request!)
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson (again! because Christmas!)
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (abridged this time!)
- The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien
- The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien
- C.S. Lewis: Creator of Narnia, Sam Wellman
- Classic Myths to Read Aloud: The Great Stories of Greek and Roman Mythology, William F. Russell
- Long Walk to Water, Linda Sue Park (pairs well with the documentary On the Way to School, still on Netflix at the time of this update)
- Long Way from Chicago, Richard Peck
- The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis
- The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare
- A Single Shard, Linda Sue Park
- A Year Down Yonder, Richard Peck
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
- The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom
- Flora & Ulysses, Kate DiCamillo
- Daddy Long-Legs, Jean Webster
- Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne
- Peace Child, Don Richardson (Note: get the updated anniversary edition.)
- Legends in Sports: Babe Ruth, Matt Christopher
- The Velveteen Rabbit and Other Tales, Margery Williams
- The Sword in the Stone (The Once and Future King, Book 1), T.H. White
- The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson (don't judge!)
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (abridged)
- The Sugar Creek Gang #1: The Swamp Robber, Paul Hutchens
- True Stories of the Second World War, Paul Dowswell
Still on my list:
Red Scarf Girl, Jiang Ji-li
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
Hatchet, Gary Paulsen
The Giver, Lois Lowry
Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne
Strawberry Girl, Lois Lenski
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo (The Tale of Desperaux also makes a great read, but the Podlings have already read it.)
Have some great read-aloud suggestions of your own? Please feel free to share. I'm always on the prowl for the next good read.