Tate and I went out of town last week, and she had a ball spending most of her afternoons playing with friends and running in the sunshine. But in the evenings she’d wind down, and as grown-up as she seems to be lately (she’s 7 going on 17), her one request before slipping on her pajamas was this: “Mom, can you read Charlotte’s Web to me?”
This was important to her, even on a fun vacation. (I mean, don’t get me wrong, the girl also likes Phinneas & Ferb.) But she’s a decent reader for her age, and she enjoys tackling easier chapter books on her own (Magic Treehouse, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, and the like). From her infancy, we’ve ended our days snuggling and reading aloud. It’s her magical time where she can enter a world through her imagination, without having to “practice” her reading skills. All five of us are now often crammed on one bed to hear the evening’s story.
As Tate’s attention span has increased, so have our reading options—this means we often tackle chapter books with minimal pictures. Now, her two younger brothers still mostly listen to these types of books as they do other things, but that’s okay by me. I know at least the 4-year-old is listening. In his own way.
Here are some of our family’s favorite recent chapter books for reading aloud.
1. Charlotte’s Web
E.B. White has an eloquent command of language and sentence structure, so reading his stories aloud is pleasurable for both grownups and kids. In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur the pig is articulate and thoughtful, the charming barnyard setting is idyllically calming, and the simple messages of friendship, loyalty, and imagination are applicable to any age.
Honestly, anything by E.B. White is a winner—we also loved reading Stuart Little aloud a few years ago.
2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
I thought about listing the entire Narnia series here, but I think The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the most fun as an early read-aloud. Who doesn’t love the possibility that the back of your wardrobe is the portal to a winter wonderland? The whole series is full of great life analogies, so there’s plenty of conversation fodder around the dinner table. C.S. Lewis is one of my all-time favorite authors.
3. The Little House series
We read some of the Little House series out loud last year, when Tate was in kindergarten. At first, Kyle and I would alternate shifts reading the book. By the end, we were all captivated on the couch, listening about 19th century family life. These books aren’t just for girls—I know plenty of boys who love them.
4. Winnie the Pooh
I agree with Gladys Hunt—the Winnie the Pooh books are often relegated to the very young, and usually in abridged formats. This is unfortunate—A.A. Milne’s writing is rich with humor and language, and children of all ages shouldn’t miss hearing his words in the original, unabridged formats. Don’t think your kids are too old for these books. They’re quality. (Oh, and make sure you read the originals, not the Disney-fied versions.)
5. The Wrinkle in Time series
Tate just got the Wrinkle in Time book series for her birthday on Saturday, and I’m pretty sure I was as excited as she. These books were some of my favorites as a young girl—I remember lying on my bed, unable to stop turning the pages. The story completely sucked me in. Madeleine L’Engle is one of the great modern-day storytellers. I can’t wait to jump into these this week.
I also love the entire Harry Potter series, though we had to stop halfway through the second book as a read-aloud last year—Tate was starting to get a bit scared. We’ll probably pick them up again in a few years (though I read them myself, and they’re some of my all-time favorite fiction books).
Still on our list for this year are Little Women, The Penderwicks, The Hobbit, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Saturdays. Tate’s independent reading will include The Boxcar Children, Strawberry Girl, Ralph S. Mouse, The Cricket in Times Square, Betsy-Tacy, and of course, more Magic Treehouse.
Also—audiobooks are great for quiet times, listening to books in the car or while cleaning, or generally giving a parent’s voice a break. Head here to find tons and tons of free audiobook classics (they’re all in the public domain.)
C.S. Lewis once said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of 10 which is not equally worth reading at the age of 50 and beyond.” Don’t settle for less than excellent literature for your kids—there’s more than enough from which to choose. And I’ll bet you’ll love them just as much.
Alright, I know you can add to this list (I barely scratched the surface of ours!). What are your top favorite read-aloud chapter books?
(And hey, in full disclosure, the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click on them and then buy something, I’ll get a small percentage. It’s your way of helping support this blog. Just wanted you to know.)