One of the best ways to encourage children in their literary development is to make time to read aloud as a family. Not only is this great for children’s intellectual development, but it also adds a dimension to family time that can easily be lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While families often spend a lot of time together, especially as homeschoolers, much of that time is spent doing the everyday necessities. By purposely setting aside time to read as a family, you are declaring the importance of engaging together. As the later years come, your children will be grateful for this time together. These moment’s of unity as a family through reading aloud can be remembered as one of the most peaceful times of childhood. I know for myself, (Payton), my Dad’s consistency of reading to me each night was such a gift. I received security, love, peace as I listened to my Dad read stories aloud. I look back on my childhood now and realize those moment’s of unity through reading marked my childhood in deep and profound ways. There was a bond that was created between my Dad and I. I can still remember my eager little voice always asking for him to “do the voices!”. The way my Dad read each story and gave each character a different voice, brought stories to life for me. There’s nothing like being read aloud, it’s one of the best gifts to recieve.
Sharing stories is also a wonderful way to create discussion. Children often have the most wonderful observations! Hearing what a child thinks about a story gives you a window into how his mind works. And stories provide wonderful teaching opportunities where a parent is able to engage with his children and talk through moral issues. Sometimes it can feel like the only time one is able to teach a child a lesson is when the children has messed up. Although we learn some of our greatest lessons through our failures, how refreshing is it to be able to read wonderful stories together and talk through issues of character in a supportive setting! Our children’s character can be built upon a foundation of stories through empathy. When our children and ourselves, empathize in a story, we are able to learn from another without having to make the same mistakes ourselves.
I (Payton), can relate this to surfing. When I first began learning, I would walk into the water and get pummeled by white water, over and over again. I was constantly getting destroyed by waves (ugh!) I figured I’d need to go through getting pummeled every time to get out past the break where the water was calm and the waves were not breaking on me. Often, in our own lives we too think this way. We think and believe we have to go through the hard stuff, the failures, the mess ups, to be molded into who were created to be. We see this as the only way to grow and learn.
As I observed other surfers and began to ask for help I noticed a shift in my surfing. I began to understand the waves, I knew where the waves would break on me and where they wouldn’t. I was able to maneuver my board to avoid being destroyed consistently. This new learning method gave me confidence and in return I was able to get past the break much quicker and with less frustration (and headaches!).
I believe the same is true of listening to stories of others hardships and failures. We can glean their wisdom through each story to avoid stumbling blocks in our lives and unnecessary hardships.
Does this mean I won’t wipe out or get destroyed by waves? Of course not.
If we read a story about someone overcoming their fear, do we assume we will always overcome ours? No!
There is a balance in life of learning from our own experience and learning from others. It’s not a either or. But much more of a both-and. Filled with the wisdom of stories, our children learn to maneuver through life with confidence like my journey has been through surfing. It’s a privilege as parents to be able to offer this strength to our children through reading-aloud!
So, in honor of that, here is a fun list of favorites for family read-aloud time.
BOOK LIST FOR AGES 2-4 and 5-7
The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
These two books are probably already on your bookshelf. If you haven’t read them away pull them out again. Their cadence is perfect for bedtime and they are stories that portray a parent’s love as wonderfully secure and safe. And of course, the pictures are gorgeous.
Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
Find yourself spending hours looking at his wonderful pictures. McCloskey is a genius in creating wonderful stories and his illustrations bring each character and moment to life.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
Delicious watercolors and an incredibly touching story. This book belongs belongs on every child’s bookshelf.
The Clown of God by Tomie de Paola
One of the most popular children’s authors, and for good reason. His stories are unique and intelligent and when paired with his whimsical illustrations, he delivers the whole package.
The New Baby by Eloise Wilkins
This story helps children understand what is happening when a their mother is expecting another child. Plus her paintings of chubby little children are so endearing.
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
The illustrations are whimsical, Amelia is lovably ridiculous, and laughing with little children is just about the best thing in the world, right?
Brinton Turkle’s Obadiah Books
Charming, heartwarming, and unique. Not only are the illustrations beautiful, the characters are entirely loveable and fully developed. Highly recommended!
The Wreck of the Zephyr, Garden of Abdul Gasazi, Jumanji, and The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Imaginative tales, wonderful adventures, and full of thrill. These are the sort of books you want to read over and over again.
Dr. Seuss (of course!)
Virginia Lee Burton
A. A. Milne (stick with the original Pooh stories, they’re brilliant and the Disney Knockoffs do not come anywhere close)
Margery Williams (The Velveteen Rabbit)
We are surrounded by a wealth of literature for young people and I hope this gives you some inspiration and directions!