Christmas I began reading Charlotte’s Web to Ruth at bedtime. It’s not the most appropriate choice of chapter book for a 3 year old but I chose it for sentimental reasons. It was the first “special” book I read to both her brothers when they were each about three. (I chose it originally for John because the movie came out that year and I thought it would make a good first movie in the big theater. Also, he was a first child and I was an overly eager mother.) Still, even though the language is fairly complex and the themes are over her head she is enjoying the book. Every night she asks to read her “special book”. Sometimes we only read a page or a few paragraphs, sometimes it’s more. She’s getting the overall gist of the story. And she’ll hear it again one day. (David at age 6 is probably enjoying this time through more than anyone as he usually comes in and listens as well.)
I also read “special books” to both boys at bedtime. Overall the routine takes about an hour. There are times I admit to wishing we could streamline this time so I could have more time of my own at night to read or blog or watch something (say, Downton Abbey for example). However, I’m also really aware of how special this special book time is. There are lots of reasons to read-aloud with kids: it benefits their language, it increases attention span, it expands their imaginations. But I think the one I like best is the snuggle reason. No matter what kind of day we’ve had we end it on a good note when we snuggle up in bed with a good book.
So that’s the why to reading aloud. The how? Whatever works for you. We have a routine I’ve mentioned here several times. I read a special chapter book to each child at night and I read a separate book at lunchtime that everyone listens to. We fit in other books (picture books, science and history books, poetry) during teatime or as a break from school or when waiting in the car during piano lessons or whenever. Some people have their kids do something else while reading like Legos or coloring. Mine have never found it hard to listen so they usually just listen. I don’t think there is really a rule to how to do it, just doing it is the main thing.
And the what? There are countless resources for finding good books to read aloud. One of my favorites is How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell. This is a fantastic compilation of everything to do with reading aloud with kids. Lists by every topic imaginable (book about penguins, books about sports, books for kids who love to dance, books about food, books about particular holidays or times in history or science topics). Codell (a teacher and librarian) also includes ideas for activities to do with the books if you are looking for more of a jumping off point for a school unit or project than just a reading aloud list. Other great resources include Jim Trelease’s The Read Aloud Handbook ( I see a new edition is coming out this summer) and Kathleen ODean’s Great Books for Boys (There is also one for girls. This goes against my own philosophy that good books are good books and not so much for boys or girls. But they are good resources nonetheless.) Ambleside Online’s booklists are a great place to look for classic children’s literature. One reason I love the Cybils is that they are a fabulous resource of books recommended by book-loving bloggers and parents.
And of course, one of my favorite resources each week is Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Why not stop by and join the conversation? What are you reading in your house?