July 10, 2013

Five Great Books to Read Aloud with Kids

Read aloud

The other night, when I tiptoed into Alice's room to check on her, I found her still awake and whispering to her stuffed animals.

"No, Templeton," she scolded. "That is not your slop."

She was acting out Charlotte's Web, and not in a million years would I have told her to go to bed just then.

We started reading the E.B. White classic, a chapter or two a night, about a week ago. I thought Alice might be a little too young for it - not the subject matter (though I am not looking forward to the ending) so much as the number of words and the lack of pictures. There are some pictures, of course. Beautiful ones by Garth Williams, but not a picture for every scene as in most of the books she has been read.

And beyond that, I wasn't sure she was ready to stick with a story that unfolds over days and weeks rather than just a few minutes. This was a book we would have to put down and pick back up night after night, remembering where we left off, and I just didn't know whether it would sustain her interest. But I wanted to give it a try.

So far, she's loving it. It helps that, when her dad reads it, he does all the farm animal voices.

When I bought our copy of Charlotte's Web, the cashier looked at it and said, "Oh, my mom used to read this to me."

I told her I was buying it to read to my daughter, but that I thought it was going to be a a bit of a stretch for her.

"That's OK," she said. "That's how we learn."

Don't you love conversations like that?

Anyway, reading aloud to children - especially before they start school - is heaven. And it has all sorts of developmental and educational benefits besides.

To help us discover even more books to share, I asked Suzy Daveluy, of the Stockton-San Joaquin County Public Library System, to reccommend some great family read-alouds. (The legendary Suzy Daveluy is youth services coordinator for the library, and also oversees literacy, outreach and programming). Here are her picks, in no particular order. All, coincidentally, are available throughout the local library system:

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
The classic adventures of Pooh Bear, Piglet, Christopher Robin and friends.

Mr Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Small-town painter Mr. Popper unexpectedly comes to possess a penguin. And then two. And then a dozen. A Newbery Honor book.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Edward Tulane is a china rabbit, given to a 10-year-old girl by her grandmother. After selfish Edward is accidentally lost, he is passed along, from owner to owner, maturing along the way.

The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon
Chester, a cricket from Connecticut gets caught on a commuter train and ends up in Times Square. Eventually, he reveals an unusual musical talent. A Newbery Honor book.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The diary of Ivan, a gorilla who has lived in a cage at the mall for 27 years. Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal.

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