One of my goals in life is to spend quality time with my family. Reading aloud is a great way to spend time with your children. In addition to building great memories, there are many academic reasons to read aloud. Reading to children improves their vocabulary. It builds their attention span in a way that time on the iPad or a video game doesn’t. It improves listening skills in an age when teachers and parents complain that their children aren’t good listeners. Most children love to be read to, and through listening, learn to love books. Children who love books will read more and the bottom line of reading research is that the more you read the better you read. If you want your children to be good readers, read to them.
I’m putting on my professor of children’s literature hat today to share ten of my favorite, tried and true books to read aloud to your child.
1. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
You probably remember this from your own childhood. Four orphaned children build a home in an old boxcar. It is a sweet, satisfying and heart- filled story. My eight year old nephews recently told me all about it, reinforcing my notion that although it is old -fashioned, it still works for children today.
2. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingren
Children love Pippi, perhaps because she lives on her own without the influence of adults, or perhaps because of her silly adventures. I still remember my daughter’s giggles at Pippi carrying a horse and her crazy adventures with the police.
3. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
All of Beverly Cleary’s books make good read alouds. I’ve read all of the Ramona books aloud to my own children or children I taught. The Mouse and The Motorcycle, and it’s sequels are especially good choices for active little boys. Who doesn’t love a mouse riding around on a motorcycle? There is lots of action and good fuel for the imagination here.
4. Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli
This one is technically a picture book, though a longer one. Mr. Hatch is a lonely old man with no friends. His whole life changes when he gets a box of Valentine’s Day chocolates in the mail- by mistake. This is a great story to build empathy and an understanding of what it means to be a friend.
5. Thank You, Jackie Robinson by Barbara Cohen
I’ve read this book out loud many times, and it still makes me cry. A lonely young boy befriends the elderly cook in his mother’s inn. They bond over a love of baseball, and especially the new Brooklyn Dodger, Jackie Robinson. Racism rears its ugly head, and leads to great discussions of what it means to be racist. Ultimately this is a great story of friendship.
6. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
A young girl named Opal finds and keeps a stray dog. Along with collecting a dog, she collects a unique cast of characters, each with a story to share. This is another story with heart.
7. The One and Only Ivan by Kathleen Applegate
This story is told through the eyes of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in a shopping mall tourist attraction. Ivan has a great story to tell about friendship and the power of art. This book easily kept children’s attention in summer school for the past two summers, which is a good sign.
8. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
A classic story of a boy and his dog on a ranch in the Texas frontier. There is a lot of adventure and plenty of escapades from the rangy old mutt. In the same vein, try Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Dogs are like magnets to kids, and together, this is a powerful trio of dog stories.
9. Mississippi Bridge by Mildred Taylor
I’ve read this very short chapter book dozens of times to third through eighth graders. This story of four young black children who witness discrimination and then tragedy in 1930’s Mississippi never fails to ignite lots of insight and powerful discussion.
10. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
If your children are a little older and ready for a scary story, this is a good one. It is about a young boy who is raised by ghosts and wanted by a murderer. I found it clever, imaginative and sometimes frightening. Gaiman knows how to draw you in and keep you there.