[Note: This was originally posted on January 23, 2015, and has since been updated for content.]
Every day I read aloud to the five Podlings in my care. This group currently ranges in age from sixteen down to six. Since more than a few people have asked how I choose the books to read aloud (or have asked for lists/recommendations), I thought I'd share what we've read together so far and where I plan to take them in the future.
How I Choose Read-Aloud Books
Since I read a lot anyway, having access to an ever-expanding list of possibilities isn't really a problem.
When the time comes to start a new book with the kids, 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. I don't care how lauded or "important" or "valuable" the book is. If you don't care for it, they won't either.
2) Will the kids understand it and like it? I balance toward the older ones. The littles get what they get -- which is a lot.
3) What does the author do 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 book match the season? I'm all about reading the right book 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.
How You Should Choose Books
1) Take advice of the readers in your life. Take recommendations under advisement, but don't take them blindly. Not every book is for every person.
2) Read the book first. Don't skip this step. No matter how highly the book has 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. Nothing's worse than stopping halfway through a book and not finishing it. That breaks a child's trust.
3) Don't worry too much about whether the book is important or educational or valuable. Just pick a good read and get cracking. Reading aloud to your kids has great value in itself.
Books I've Read Aloud to the Podlings
Bear in mind that we've been at this for a few years but that I didn't start keeping a master list until partway through the venture. I'm pretty sure I've forgotten a few along the way. [Also, this list doesn't account for the books I study with each child individually. This list is read-alouds only. If you want individual book report recommendations, you'll have to message me.]
- 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)
- 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 (take two)
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (abridged)
- 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 Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo
- 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. Trust me.)
- Legends in Sports: Babe Ruth, Matt Christopher
- The Velveteen Rabbit and Other Tales, Margery Williams
- The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, Timothy Keller
- 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 (yes, again)
- 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
- The Force Awakens: A Junior Novel, Michael Kogge
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer: In the Midst of Wickedness, Janet & Geoff Benge
- The Princess Bride, William Goldman
- Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing
- The Kite Fighters, Linda Sue Park
- Bound for Oregon, Jean Van Leeuwen
- 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
- Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
- Once / Now / Then / After, Morris Gleitzman
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Have some great read-aloud suggestions of your own?
Please share in the comments here or on Facebook.
I'm always on the prowl for the next good read.