Why reading aloud is one of the best gifts you can give.
We all know how important it is to instill a love of reading in our kids. There's no doubt that not being able to read fluently will be a hindrance for your child later on in life (this isn't a discussion on when your child should learn to read since we should allow that to happen at whatever age it suits the child - fluent reading could begin anytime from age 4 to age 10) . It's feels very natural to read to our kids when they're little enough to fit in our laps. But once they don't sit on your lap anymore (sigh, it does happen) and they're consuming books on their own, don't stop reading with them!
Reading aloud is so good for your child - and for you - and here's why:
it strengthens bonds between you and your children
it decreases stress levels for both you and your kids
reading books together is SO great for honing conversation skills (I should have added that tip to my last blog post)
helps to develop social skills
teaches kids to pay attention
helps them to navigate emotions
they'll gain literacy and language skills
helps them gain empathy and knowledge for people in other cultures, in other countries and introduces them to issues they may never have considered before in a safe place, with safe people
Reading great books aloud to my kids will always be some their homeschooling highlights, and mine too. Sometimes I would read to them in the afternoons with tea in China tea cups, sometimes it was at the park, often it would be while they were all piled on our bed just out of the bathtub and smelling like little cherubs (cherubs must smell like baby shampoo). I'm writing this with a smile on my face because it brings back such great memories. I loved those days.
Cuddling up with a book was also a great way for Tony to get involved in our school day. He worked full time while I taught the kids and since our books were often geared toward the subject that the kids were learning about in school, he could get a glimpse
into the time period or geographical region or social issue that we'd been filling our days with. Story-telling was always his specialty though which was also great fun! Feel free to switch it up sometimes (it wasn't until the kids were much older that they realized dad had been telling them his own - very animated - versions of the Indian Jones sagas all along...). Reading aloud is a great way to include the grandparents too.
If reading isn't your thing or you can't imagine having to fit another thing into your schedule or if you just can't commit to reading regularly with older kids, maybe pick a book of short stories so that you don't have to remember what happened in the last chapter. We tried to make time to read with the kids until their early teens. Are they avid readers now? Not always, there are definitely other things they prioritize these days but they still do love getting lost in a great novel when they make the time to fit it in. But not one of those hours spent reading together has gone to waste, if only for all the warm, fuzzy memories that were created.
And to help you out, here is a list of some of our all-time favourite books and novels - just in time for Christmas.
Books we read aloud and LOVED:
Although many of these were written years ago, their lessons and intrigue are current today. Ages given are just a guide. I usually read the book first to see if it worked for the youngest of our kids. Check out your library for these titles or a reseller of old books like
Abe Books, a company I used many times while we homeschooled.
Dolphin Adventure, Wayne Grover. True story of a bond made between a dolphin family and a freelance journalist. Short and heart-warming. All Ages
The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes. A little girl struggles to make friends at school after moving to North America from Poland. An important book about inclusion and not judging others. Only 7 short chapters and the last chapter takes place at Christmas so it's perfect for this time of year. Great conversation starter. Ages 6 - 12
Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Needs no introduction. Ages 6+
Charlottes Web, E.B. White. A well-known classic. Ages 6+
Sarah Whitcher's Story, Elizabeth Yates. A folklore. A little girl gets lost and spends days in the forest while her village is out frantically trying to find her. She spends those days cuddled up with her big 'dog'. All I can say...it wasn't her dog! Ages 7 - 9
The House of Sixty Fathers, Meindert DeJong. Set during the Japanese war. A story of a small boy's courage when he gets separated from his family. Ages 8 - 12
Follow My Leader, James B. Garfield. A boy goes blind after playing with firecrackers. A great novel on dealing with your own disability and how to treat others with a disability. Ages 10+
Wonder, R. J. Palacio. Such a great story about deals with the fears of fitting in when you are 'different' than the other kids. And it's a great movie too, just read the book first ;) Ages 8 - 12
Ali and the Golden Eagle, Wayne Grover (same author as Dolphin Adventure). Another true story, this time set in Saudi Arabia where Wayne accidentally discovers a village nestled on a cliff in the dessert. Most of its inhabitants have had no contact with the outside world. Ages 10 +
The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Speare. After building a cabin in the woods with his dad, 12 year-old Matt has to stay on his own until his dad can bring the family back to settle into their new life. As the weeks stretch on and his family has still not arrived, he befriends an indigenous community to survive. Ages 10+
Safe as Houses, Eric Walters. An unbelievable story from a childs perspective about the devastation Hurricane Hazel brought right here in Toronto. I had no idea about this piece of history. You have to read it to believe it. Ages 9+
Twenty and Ten, William Pene du Bois. Based on a true story. Twenty French children aged 6 - 11 have to hide 10 Jewish children during the WWII. A story you won't forget about courage. Ages 8+
Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery. That wonderful Canadian classic. My girls went on to read the whole series. Ages 8+
The James Herriot Treasury, James Herriot. A British veterinarian recounts his true stories from visits to farms across England. Beautiful illustrations
Aesops Fables Collection. Nice and short and great to get the conversation rolling.
any Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I LOVE these books. One year, I got one for everyone in the family at Christmas since there's a book for every occasion or hobby - hockey, moms, baby, artists, travellers, entrepreneurs, inspiration, Christmas, Easter, etc, etc. I found a bunch at Value Village in great condition...win-win. These are great to read together. So many touching, funny and 'good Samaritan' type stories. Pick up one of the Christmas versions and make evening story reading for the whole family a new holiday tradition!
Oh man...there are so many more books. If you're looking for anything for a specific age, please don't hesitate to get in touch. There are lots more I haven't mentioned for the older kids.
Happy reading! If it isn't already, it will soon become the BEST part of your day!