As a homeschool mom who follows a literature-heavy curriculum, I find this question sometimes overwhelming. There are so many classics, there are so many books I want to read. Too many books, too little time!
So how do parents decide what to read out loud with their kids? What books will interest everyone? Which books aren’t too baby-ish for older kids and which books aren’t too challenging for younger kids?
One thing I’ve learned is that we’ve never had a complaint about a book being too “babyish.” Even books like Mo Willems are enjoyed by my oldest (almost nine-years-old). The same cannot be said on the other end; we hit a point with Anne of Green Gables where it became too hard for my then four-year-old to follow along, and we took a break from the series to shift to something a bit easier for him to chew on. We did the same with The Chronicles of Narnia, and did eventually come back to it (via audiobook for my oldest).
How can parents find good and appropriate books? That ‘appropriate’ question has two prongs: Appropriate for their comprehension level (which is not, as we discussed, the same thing as their reading level) and appropriate in terms of content.
There are several books about reading out loud that I strongly recommend, and within those books are book lists with jumping off points for parents looking for a ideas on where to start.
Read Aloud Family: This is a wonderful book from my favorite read aloud resource, Sarah Mackenzie, the founder of Read Aloud Revival. Sarah also publishes regular podcasts and blog posts about every possible question related to reading out loud. Book lists are tailored to the calendar, so you can find the best books about leaves and pumpkins in the fall, books about snow and holidays in the winter, and gardens and rain showers in the springtime.
The Read Aloud Handbook: If I could send every new parent home with any book, it would be this from Jim Trelese. It truly is a handbook: a guide to reading out loud for parents who are unsure why they would ever waste so much time reading out loud. By the time you finish, you’ll bedetermined to read out loud to your kids.
The Enchanted Hour: Meghan Cox Gurdon, a Wall Street Journal columnist, breaks down the latest neuroscience and behavioral research—in case you needed any more inspiration to read out loud. The Enchanted Hour powerfully argues that “for everyone, reading aloud engages the mind in complex narratives; for children, it’s an irreplaceable gift that builds vocabulary, fosters imagination, and kindles a lifelong appreciation of language, stories and pictures.”
What other options are there on the market?
Heroes of Liberty: HOL believes that children learn best through stories with heroic role models. To this end, it offers beautifully illustrated biographies of figures like Alexander Hamilton, Margaret Thatcher, Amy Coney Barrett, Ronald Reagan, and Mark Twain, each one upholding American values of bravery, fortitude, a love of freedom and a pioneering spirit. These books are ideal for children aged 6 to 12, but can be enjoyed at any age, toddlers to adults alike.
Brave Books: Concerned by the rise of Progressivism, Brave Books seek to teach children about values such as faith, freedom, truth, humility, bravery, and compassion through stories. Each book focuses on a different value, and combines with the others to create a multi-book plot.
Tuttle Twins: A libertarian imprint offering stories for kids explaining difficult topics like inflation, the Federal Reserve, and free market economics. The Tuttle Twins have recently expanded to offering a magazine and cartoons with similar content.
Chicken Scratch Books: Founded to fill the growing gap between the kids of books parents want, and the books being put out by mainstream publishers, Chicken Scratch Books aims to provide children with new ‘traditional’ stories. They also provide study guides for homeschoolers, and run a course for aspiring children’s authors.
Good and True Media: An offshoot of Good Will Publishers, a family owned business which began in 1938 by distributing Bibles, Good and True produce books with Christian, family-centered values. In addition to individual books, they also offer the Bible Crate, a monthly subscription service taking children through the Bible.
I hope that this gives you a few ideas for books to kick off with. In the next blog, we’ll look at the ‘when’ of reading aloud.
This is Part 2 of a 5-part series on reading aloud to children, by Heroes of Liberty Editor Bethany Mandel. If you missed it, you can catch up on Part 1. Don’t forget to check back soon for the next part of this series — ‘The When.’
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