Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books I loved reading with my kiddos

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a new top 10 theme each week. While the “official” topic is slightly different, I thought I’d focus on books that I loved reading with my kids. Now, bear in mind that both (sadly) have outgrown the reading-aloud phase, but I did diligently read to both of them every single day from infancy onward.

First, here are some books that were perfect for my sweeties in the baby and toddler days:

1. Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown — so perfectly sweet.

2. ALL books by Sandra Boynton: I especially loved The Going to Bed Book, But Not the Hippopotamus, Moo Baa La La La — but they’re really all terrific. And years later, I can (and do) still quote them by heart!

3. The poetry of Winnie the Pooh: A good friend gave me a beautiful set of the Winnie the Pooh books when my daughter was born, and what we ended up especially loving were the poems in the books. Lines and Squares is amazing!

4. Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks from A to Z: You haven’t lived until you’ve read this book with a 2-year-old! The adults in the house were on the floor completely incapacitated by laughter the first time we read this with my son, who tried his best, in his adorable 2-year-old voice, to repeat the names of all of the very silly cars. (The 2-year-old is now 15 and I’m sure would deny having any part in this, but I have video proof!)

5. Tumble Tower – a wonderful picture book that we loved to pieces.

6. Tumble Bumble – Unrelated to Tumble Tower, it’s just such a wonderful sing-songy read, and so much fun.

As the kiddos got older, we moved on to chapter books and book series, and here are some we loved:

7. Harry Potter — of course! I read the entire series out loud to my son when he was about 7 or 8. I was so proud of myself! (He loved it too.) We had such a good time with reading and discussing these books — it was an amazing experience.

8. The Hobbit — another fun read-aloud.

9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – I read this one with my daughter. She was definitely old enough to read it on her own, but the concepts involved are pretty complex, and it was a good choice for a book to share.

10. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede — The dragon and princess trope turns upside down in these magical tales. Book #1 is really the best, but all make for a great shared read.

What books did you love reading with the kids in your life… or which would you want to read with your future kids? Please leave me your link!

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The final read-aloud, part deux

Last week, I published a blog post called “The Final Read-Aloud” about my experiences reading with my 10-year-old son and dreading the day that he decides he’s too old to be read to. My beautiful, talented, and apparently neglected-feeling daughter, age 22, pointed out that my experiences with her were quite different. In the interest of family peace, as well as presenting another view of the end of reading aloud, I thought I’d add an overview of my daughter’s evolution as a reader as well.

Let me start by saying that my husband makes fun of me whenever I bemoan the difficulty of parenting a rowdy, active boy — because he thinks that I expected this one to turn out to be another perfect little angel like his sister, and as it turns out, that wasn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, I love ALL my children. But you know the children’s book I Love You The Purplest? That really sums up a parent’s life in a nutshell.

My daughter  was easy from day one. I could and did take her anywhere with me and she got along just fine, whether it was lunch with girlfriends, shopping expeditions, or museum outings. We hit the theaters and movies, did crafts, enjoyed dancing around the house, or just sitting and watching “The Little Mermaid” for the thousandth time. And, like me, my little angel was a reader from the get-go.

We read together every night before bed, sometimes piles of books, and she never got tired of it. When she started elementary school, she took to early phonics and reading exercises like a champ. By second grade, although we were still reading together every night, she discovered the joys of reading on her own. Her first chapter books were the junior versions of Ann M. Martin’s Babysitters Club series — The Babysitters’ Little Sister books. These were perfect for her — not too difficult, and centered around a 2nd-grade girl and her friends. After she got tired of that bunch, she graduated into the bigger kid stories in The Babysitters Club, and then on into the big, wide world of reading, no mom filters required.

BUT, we hung in there and continued reading together as well. Our read-alouds gave us the opportunity to explore books together, and gave her the chance to enjoy books that she probably would have found too difficult on her own at that point, such as The Golden Compass (those first chapters are so dense, they’re practically impenetrable). So why did we stop reading aloud together? I blame Harry Potter.

We read the first three Harry Potter books together. She’s of the lucky generation that grew up with Harry Potter, always about the same age as Harry as he grew up from book to book. On book 3, I pretty much lost my voice by the end, as we’d gotten to the really good parts and she simply would not allow me to stop reading. What could I do? I was as hooked as she was, so we pressed on.

In the year 2000, when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published, my lovely girl was 10 years old. We brought the book home, read a single chapter together, and boom! That’s when it happened. She decided that it was just too slow, all this reading aloud business, took the book off on her own, and plowed right through it. See ya, mom! Of course, she loved it, and I loved the book too. We just loved it separately, that’s all.

Goblet of Fire wasn’t necessarily a cold-turkey stop to reading aloud together, but it certainly marked the beginning of the end. That experience showed her, beyond a doubt, that she was a full-fledged independent reader who could handle longer, more complex stories on her own.

It didn’t feel like a sad ending of a chapter with her, probably because she has remained a devoted, avid reader all her life. Like me, she gets overly involved in her books, falls in love with the fictional worlds she visits, becomes highly invested in the characters, and likes to be surrounded by the books she loves wherever she goes. We’ve spent our whole lives together talking about books, trading books, and recommending books, and I don’t think we’ll ever stop.

Which brings me back to my son (sorry, daughter sweetie, I know this was supposed to be all about you…). I think the reason that I dread the end of our reading-aloud times is that I don’t feel confident that he’ll end up a reader. Left to his own devices so far, books are the things that he picks up when he’s forced to. I can count on one, maybe two hands, the times he’s voluntarily chosen to spend time reading. I’m afraid that once he no longer wants to be read to, he’ll fall into a book-less void.

I’m not giving up. I know I still have a job to do to get him to the point where reading is fun and exciting, and not just a chore. We’re not there yet. But we’ll get there, I hope. Onward!

The final read-aloud

The day is coming, and it’s not that far off, when the moment I dread will finally arrive: The day when my youngest child turns to me at bed-time and says, “That’s okay, Mom. You don’t need to read to me any more.”

Our bed-time reading ritual has been a daily staple since he was a newborn, when I’d lie on the bed with him and watch him kick his feet in time to the rhythms of A. A. Milne’s fabulous poetry:

Whenever I walk in a London street,
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
Just look how I’m walking in all the squares!”

(A. A. Milne, “Lines and Square”, When We Were Very Young)

As he grew, our choice of books varied, but always, always, we’d grab a few books off the shelves, cuddle up, and dig in. During the toddler and preschool years, favorites included:

For some reason, the “corn car” always cracked us up.

Board books galore, such as Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks From A To Z (try reading this to a toddler and have him/her repeat all the car names after you. Guaranteed hilarity!); any and all of the oh-so-silly Boynton books (The Going To Bed Book and Pajama Time are special favorites of ours); the Margaret Wise Brown books, of which Big Red Barn is far and away the best.

As he grew older, we moved into the world of Seuss and friends, first the shorter classics (One Fish, Two Fish and In A People House were among the most requested), then moving on to The Cat in the Hat and all of those crazy shenanigans. As he progressed through the early elementary years, my son became hooked on some of the longer, wackier Seuss works, such as The Sneetches, I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew, and a perennial favorite, Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book.

 

 

A moose is asleep. He is dreaming of moose drinks.
A goose is asleep. He is dreaming of goose drinks.
That’s well and good when a moose dreams of moose juice.
And nothing goes wrong when a goose dreams of goose juice.
But it isn’t too good when a moose and a goose
Start dreaming they’re drinking the other one’s juice.
Moose juice, not goose juice, is juice for a moose.
And goose juice, not moose juice, is juice for a goose.
So, when goose gets a mouthful of juices of mooses
And moose gets a mouthful of juices of gooses
They always fall out of their beds screaming screams
So, I’m warning you, now! Never drink in your dreams.

(Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book)

Now that he’s a an older elementary school student, practically on the verge of middle school, his tastes have changed, although his interest in bed-time reading sessions has not. Two years ago, the boy decided he wanted to know what all this Harry Potter fuss was about and asked to watch the first movie. “Aha!” I said (paraphrasing here…), “here’s my opportunity!” and I insisted that he read the book before seeing the movie. This negotiation quickly ended with the compromise that he’d listen to the book if I’d read it to him at bedtime. And so we did. I read, he listened, he became hooked, I got to re-read a favorite series all over again and see it fresh through a child’s eyes. Ten months later, we closed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with me having read OUT LOUD every book in the series. (I was quite proud of myself, really — I’m not a very dramatic reader, but I do think I managed a pretty good Snape voice).

Harry Potter set us on a course of venturing into longer books and books series. We’ve read The Mysterious Benedict Society series, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, started (but didn’t enjoy) the Lemony Snicket books, read a few classics such as My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and a variety of Roald Dahl books. Our current book is Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, which the author probably did not envision as a bed-time story — full of adventure and danger in the Everglades, as well as some unique and very funny characters — but we’re fully enjoying it together.

The bottom line, for me, is that our bed-time reading ritual ensures that the kid and I have quality time together at the end of each day, that we have a shared book experience to discuss and enjoy, and equally importantly from my perspective, it gives my boy, a truly reluctant reader, a chance to experience the joy of reading. It’s a struggle to get him to pick up a book and read on his own, which he is capable of doing — he’s just usually not interested or so inclined. (“Mom, I can read. I just prefer not to.”) Our night-time reading sessions let him see the beauty and excitement of a good book and experience how great it feels to be so caught up in a story that you just have to know what happens next, that you dream about the characters, that you wake up in the morning with a theory about one of the book’s mysteries.

My son is ten. He’ll be in middle school next year. He’s growing up, I know — picks out his own clothes, checks his email, going boogie-boarding with his big brother, and mostly wants to assert his independence. I’m guessing that at some time in the coming year, he’ll decide that he’s too old for all this read-aloud business. But I’m hoping it’s a ways off yet. For now, he’s definitely enjoying it, and I plan to hang in there as long as possible to keep our reading time alive.

If you’re a parent of an older child, I’d love to know: Do you still read to your kids, even it they can read on their own? If not, when did your read-alouds stop? Share your thoughts in the comments, please!