Archive for the ‘Read-Alouds’ Category

monday booknotes

May 9, 2016 @ 5:16 pm | Filed under: Books, Read-Alouds

Ingredients of a typical day in my house

Ingredients of a typical day in my house

Thanks to everyone for the comments on last week’s post. It was fun to see what you’d like to hear more about. I think I take some of those topics for granted and assume people are tired of hearing me chatter about tidal homeschooling and whatnot. 🙂 I really appreciate your feedback and look forward to diving into the topics you raised.

I’m coming up bust on the most pressing question, though—details on the washi tape in that photo. I can’t remember where it came from! I’ll see if I can track it down. 🙂

Ace the Very Important Pig by Dick King-Smith The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall  The Whisper of Glocken by Carol Kendall

I finished reading Ace, the Very Important Pig to Huck and Rilla last week. They really enjoyed it, although they didn’t find it quite as engrossing as our last pig book, Charlotte’s Web. I mean, it’s kind of hard to compete with Charlotte. But Ace is fun and funny and was a lighthearted, enjoyable read. It works really well as a readaloud, too, which can’t be said about every good book. It’s a funny thing that some truly wonderful books just don’t take off when I try to read them aloud. That happened with The Gammage Cup, which is a huge favorite with my older kids—all of Carol Kendall’s books are winners. For sheer enjoyability, her writing style ranks up there with L. M. Montgomery and Elizabeth Goudge, as far as I’m concerned. Delicious prose and endearing, quirky characters. But…I think the very thing that makes her prose so magical—long, complicated sentences with rich description, and a lot of interior life for the characters—renders it difficult to the listening ear.

My older girls tore through Gammage and its sequel, The Whisper of Glocken, on their own. (The Firelings is my personal favorite of Kendall’s books, but I think my girls would vote for The Gammage Cup.) But as excited as I was to begin reading it to Huck and Rilla, and as excited as Rose and Beanie were for them to experience it, we bogged down after a couple of chapters. Then came a busy week and we didn’t make time for it at all, which is generally a good indicator that I haven’t picked the right book. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen, and I never have qualms about abandoning a book that isn’t making them beg for more. I’d rather they read it alone, later, and really enjoy it. I’m sure that’s what will happen with Gammage, because it’s so darn good.

Anyway, long story short (ha!), we had fun with Ace—lots of great voice fodder among the animals. Yesterday I again faced the exhilarating, momentous decision of The Next Book. I mean, this is just a huge event in my life, over and over. 🙂 My next read, our next read—oh the agony of decision!

I didn’t dither overlong this time around…a particular favorite had been on my mind, and it’s one I’m not sure I ever read aloud to the other kids. I think most of them beat me to it.

Actually, I’ve always thought of this as sort of a private book, one meant for solo immersion. But…it felt right. Huck may be a little young to care much about the quest Claudia is going to undertake. But he’s into it so far—the big sister/little brother dynamic, the exciting running-away plan, Jamie chewing up Claudia’s instruction note and having his teeth turn blue. Rilla, of course, is enchanted. Running away to an art museum (as Jamie ungrammatically puts it, to Claudia’s disgust)—well, if Rilla could live anywhere but home, an art museum would likely be her pick. She’s impressed with Claudia’s good sense.

I had to decide whether to let Rilla meet the Met as I did, through this book, or to show it to her on YouTube. Would a glimpse of the vastness of the building and the extent of the collection enhance her mental picture of Claudia and Jamie’s adventure, or  is it better to create that picture completely in your own imagination? If you’ve not been to Manhattan yourself, I mean. In the end, conversation made the choice for me. We finished our chapter today and Rilla had questions, and next thing you know we were all watching Sister Wendy tour the museum.

I haven’t been to the Met since the 90s. I’m a bit NYC homesick now.

Periscope: The biggest decision of my week

November 4, 2015 @ 3:39 pm | Filed under: Periscope, Read-Alouds

Popped onto Periscope today to discuss readalouds, including how I approach character voices. You can catch the replay at katch.me (or watch it below). I dust off my Scottish accent around minute 27. 🙂

Picture quality seems a bit dodgy–sorry about that. It looked fine on my screen during the recording!

Our Week in Books, November 1 Edition

November 1, 2015 @ 7:22 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Graphic Novels, Homeschooling, Periscope, Read-Alouds

Bonny Glen Week in Books #6

Happy November! Just a quick list (no commentary) for this week’s books recap—my weekend is running away again.

The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Family Read-Alouds:

I finished The Search for Delicious. The kids were glued to every page. Stay tuned for a Periscope in which I will discuss what book I chose for our next read-aloud and how I arrived at this choice. I’ll also talk a little bit about how I approach character voices.

Speaking of doing voices, Scott just started reading the first Harry Potter book to Rilla. His Dumbledore is magnificent.

 No That's Wrong by Zhaohua Ji Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas

This Orq. He cave boy. The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree

Some of the picture books we enjoyed last week:

Ninja Baby by David Zeltser and Diane Goode

No, That’s Wrong! by Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu

Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas (links to pdf)

The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree by Stan & Jan Berenstain

This Orq (He Cave Boy) by David Elliott. We received a copy of this book from a friend at Boyds Mills Press and it became an instant hit. I booktalked it on Periscope on Thursday, if you’d like to hear more about why we fell in love with it. (The link will take you to katch.me where my scopes are archived, or you can scroll to the bottom of this post and watch the replay there.)

bestloveddoll rowan of rin dorothywizardinoz

What Rilla read:

The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill

Several Oz graphic novels (see this post for more about why they’re her favorite books)

Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda (in progress)

Around the World in 80 Days Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

What I read:

“The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allen Poe for a class I’m teaching

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (in progress), also for the class — this is Beanie’s reading list, too

Marine theme

Beanie also read:

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

I know I’m forgetting something. And I forgot to ask Rose for her list at all!

My boys are both enjoying:

The Magic Tree House books — they’re both working their way through the series. It’s such fun to see them side by side with their coordinating books. 🙂

Light & Shade Conversations with Jimmy Page Swag by Elmore Leonard Comfortably Numb Inside Story of Pink Floyd Enduring Saga of the Smiths

Things Scott has recently read:

Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page by Brad Tolinski

Swag: A Novel by Elmore Leonard

Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd by Mark Blake

The Light That Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of the Smiths by Tony Fletcher

News!

I’ve launched a series on Periscope. I’m calling it “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True” — this will be a regular feature in which I do my favorite thing: talk about books. A family favorite (that’s the “old”), a new gem, a library book, and a nonfiction title. I tried out the format last week and I think it’s going to work nicely! Here’s the first installment. I’ll announce future editions here and on Twitter.

Related:

   Books We Read This Week - Here in the Bonny Glen  Bonny Glen Week in Books 5 books to read with my 9yo

Would you prefer to receive Bonny Glen posts via email? Enter your email address below to subscribe:

Our Week in Books: August 30-September 5

September 6, 2015 @ 5:28 pm | Filed under: Books, Fun Learning Stuff, Graphic Novels, Homeschooling, Read-Alouds

Bonny Glen Week in Books Sept 6 2015

Time for another weekly roundup! Here are the books we read alone and together this week.

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke  Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke  Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. Read by: Huck, Rilla, and Beanie, all at different times this week.

These graphic novels have wide appeal, as you can see by the range of ages enjoying them at my house—kids ages six through fourteen, this week! One morning this week, I left Huck home with Jane while I took the other kids on an outing. Now, normally Huck would jump at the chance for a whole morning of undivided attention from his big sister, but on this day I returned home to find him sitting on the couch, engrossed in the third Zita book. “The entire time you were gone,” said Jane, answering my inquisitive glance. “He read the whole series, one after the other.” When a six-year-old boy gives up the chance to trounce his grown sister in Mario Kart, you know you’ve got a winning series.

On to picture books. I never manage to track them ALL, because the boys read them in bed at night. You should see the stack on their floor right now. Actually, no you shouldn’t, it’s a mess.

Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes  The Big Green Pocketbook by Candice Ransom and Felicia Bond  Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin and Harry Bliss

Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes. Read to: Huck.
The Big Green Pocketbook by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Felicia Bond. Read to: Huck.
Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss. Read to: Huck.

I wonder how many times I’ve read The Big Green Pocketbook out loud. It never gets old. And I still always choke up at the end!

Super-Cute Chibis to Draw and Paint- Giant-sized Fun from a Micro-sized World by Joanna Zhou Bake Sale by Sara Varon

Super-Cute Chibis to Draw and Paint: Giant-sized Fun from a Micro-sized World by Joanna Zhou. Enjoyed by: Rilla, Beanie, and me.

Beanie and Rilla have been using this book for inspiration and instruction for at least a couple of years now. Seems like it is ALWAYS out on a desk or table beside a pad of paper. Has to be their favorite how-to-draw resource. I’ve been trying to add more pictures to my bullet journal and I decided (inspired by SailorMimzy, Ms. Cendolife, and Chotskibelle on Instagram) to try to design chibi figures for our whole family. Naturally I turned to my resident experts for advice. I’m still a rookie compared to my girls, but I’m getting there.

Bake Sale by Sara Varon. Read by: Rilla.

Another beloved graphic novel. Sara Varon illustrated my friend Cecil Castellucci’s wonderful Odd Duck, a great favorite around here. Bake Sale is a quirky story about friendship. Yes, that’s an eggplant and a cupcake making…cupcakes. Rilla almost missed our Saturday night art date because she didn’t want to put this one down. (I’m seeing an absorbing-graphic-novel trend this week.)

A Child's History of the World Curious George's First Day of School by Margret & H.A. Rey

A Child’s History of the World by Virgil M. Hillyer. Read to: Huck and Rilla.

I guess I didn’t mention this one last week or the week before, but I should have! This is Rilla’s history spine. We read a couple of chapters a week, with Huck listening in—one of our narration texts. This week was the Trojan War.

Curious George’s First Day of School by Margret & H.A. Rey. Read by: Wonderboy.

Sudden Curious George attachment happening here. I expect there will be many more in our roundups, as soon as I get a chance to make a library run.

Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace. Read by: Beanie.

Oh, I just love this book so much. I asked Beanie to reread it as context for our early 20th-century studies. Betsy’s tour of Europe involves a romance in Venice, a long stay in Germany, and a hurried departure for home from England when the Great War begins. The final chapters involve one of my favorite moments in all of literature. I mean that without any hyperbole at all. It’s even better than the end of Pride and Prejudice.

Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Read by: Wonderboy (in progress).

This book makes the list twice this week! Rilla and I are still listening to the audiobook (below) during our Saturday-night art dates. I pulled out the hard copy to check how much we had left, and Wonderboy wanted to read it. He’s slowly making his way through. Fun fact about the edition pictured here: I’m pretty sure this was the first book I ever wrote cover copy for.

UPDATE: I am informed that Jane, age 20, saw this book lying on a table and reread it this week as well. 🙂

Storm Thief by Chris Wooding Vanessa and Her Sister A Novel by Priya Parmar

Storm Thief by Chris Wooding. Read by: me (in progress).

Rose asked me to read this—one of her favorite books. I’m only a chapter in so far, but it’s gripping. I’ll report back later.

Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel by Priya Parmar. Read by: me (in progress).

My bedtime Kindle reading is this fictionalized tale of Virginia Woolf and her sister, as told by Vanessa. So far: fascinating and fraught. After I finished To the Lighthouse I was hungry for background on Woolf, and I found this in my queue of digital review copies. Perfect timing. More to come on this one too, I’m sure.

Books Continued from Last Week:

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White   Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild audiobook

An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf Don't Know Much About History by Kenneth C. Davis

Notes:

Beanie’s lit class (which I teach) finished a two-week discussion of An Old-Fashioned Girl. Alcott is so funny—this is such a heavy-handed, moralistic book, quite preachy in places, with absolutely zero subtlety in its contrast of simple, wholesome, “old-fashioned” ways of bringing up children (especially girls) and the unhealthy “modern” practices she observed in the middle- and upper-middle class East Coast society of her day. And yet…despite the many anvils she drops all over the place, I am drawn in, I get wrapped up in the characters’ ups and downs. My group of 14-year-old girls found much to discuss in the contrasting upbringings of Fanny and Polly, and in the vision Alcott paints of a “future woman”—”strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-bodied, strong-souled,” she says—envisioning us, the girls and women of generations to come.

Next up for this group: Sarah Orne Jewett.

We’re nearing the end of Charlotte’s Web—too soon, too soon! When we left off, the crickets were singing about the end of summer, and everyone’s preparing for the county fair. “Summer is over and gone,” sang the crickets. Good-bye, summer, good-bye, goodbye!”


 

Related:

books to read with my 9yo  TEXT HERE (2) Books We Read This Week - Here in the Bonny Glen

Thoughts on ‘teaching’ reading (and why I don’t do it)

May 12, 2015 @ 3:51 pm | Filed under: Comics, Early Childhood Education, Homeschooling, Read-Alouds

reading comics at the piano

Reading a Bird and Squirrel book by James Burks

I chimed in on a discussion on my local homeschooling list about one mom’s concerns that her son had stalled on the learning-to-read process. As usual I found I had a lot to say, so I’m scooping it here (and expanding a bit) in case it’s of interest to others. 

I’ll second what E. said: Six is really very young and at this point (and every point, really), the VERY BEST thing you can do is to read aloud a great deal. There are lots of studies to back up what many of us have been discovering and advocating for years about the immense and rather extraordinary benefits of reading aloud.

Some tricks we have used

• We always turn on the captions when our children watch TV. And it’s amazing how much reading they can pick up from scrolling through the DVR. Huck could distinguish between “Little Bear” and “Little Bill” at age three—his first sight words.

Video games! or apps, etc. My kids have all picked up a lot of reading just from encountering the repeated text instructions and captioning that is a part of many games.

Comics and graphic novels. Great reinforcement of decoding skills and incentive to read. Plus, you know, FUN. My 3rd child learned to read from Tintin Comics. Her older sisters read them and she pored over the pictures until she began to pick up words. (I read them to her whenever she asked but that stage didn’t last long–she just loved to explore them them on her own!)  (I’ve written more about this here.)

Word games and puns. We are a wordy, wordy family. Dinner-table conversation will often involve why a thing is called what it’s called–what the root word is, where it came from. Someone will hop up to look up a word origin. And scarcely a day passes without some terrible, groan-inducing pun trotting around the house. When I teach kids’ writing and lit classes (I’m teaching three different groups of kids at present), I begin every class by soliciting contributions to our ‘Word Hoard’—asking the kids to look out for interesting words during the week to add to our collection. They really get into the spirit of the game and we have amassed some splendid word piles over the weeks. The boys in my Friday afternoon class have turned it into a competition of sorts, unfurling mile-long words to impress their classmates. I’ve learned a lot of obscure medical terms in the past month, let me tell you.

Riddles, jokes, joke books!

I am not a fan of 100 Easy Lessons because of so many similar stories of kids getting turned off to reading, or stressed/intimidated/bored–all feelings I don’t want kids to associate with reading.

Books of facts are great for young kids–early reader science stuff, etc. Again, lots of pictures to draw them in & help with decoding.

My primary advice is to not try to “teach” a child to read.

The process can be more organic, less structured. Help them along the way you helped and encouraged them to learn to talk. Read together, allowing lots of conversation and lingering and interruptions to hyperfocus on some little piece of a picture.* Chat about street signs, store names, food labels (kids will pick those up as sight words very quickly and naturally). Text is all over our world, not just in books, and reading doesn’t have to be a Capital R academic exercise. People naturally want to find things out, and reading becomes a means of doing that–so sooner or later, every child will have an interest that drives literacy. What you can do is support that interest. Feed it! Rustle up some intriguing-looking books on the topic, preferably ones with a lot of art.

(Here I come back to video games: one of my girls got so interested in a certain game that she wanted to look up guides for it online, and HER reading took a huge leap forward as she began to devour information about this game. My role was to help her safely find resources on the internet, print out useful pages, provide supplies for assembling a binder (her idea)…so you can see there are many ways for a parent to be involved in the process, guiding, facilitating, without it looking like formal reading instruction–an activity that is so stressful for many children. Lots of so-called ‘reluctant readers’ will inhale anything you give them that’s about their favorite video game. Let them hunt for cheat sites. Who cares if they don’t figure out a game level on their own? They are learning crucial research skills–how to frame questions and find answers, and how to apply that information to a practical task. Hurrah for game cheats!)

Current example: Huck is obsessed with Rose’s Snap Circuits set. This morning I stood in the living room for the longest time, watching him—his back was to me—deeply absorbed in assembling one of the projects in the guidebook. He has worked his way through the entire project book with minimal help, following the picture instructions but also puzzling out chunks of text. Sometimes he asks for help with a mouthful word like “capacitor”—no self-consciousness, no sense that he is young to be expecting to be able to read a word like that. He can’t figure it out, he asks for help. But poring over this book, casually encountering these giant words that tell him things he wants to know, has catapulted his reading skills forward in a way no teacher, no matter how good, how patient, could reproduce. If I made him sit down to a reading curriculum, I can guarantee he would be restless and fretful within minutes. But he’ll spend the whole afternoon immersed in building projects out of this book, interacting with the pictures and text, following complex directions—and consider it ‘playing.’ As in, “Can I play with your Snap Circuits again today?” he’ll beg his big sister.

tuesdayinmay

*********

*Let me elaborate on what I said above about “allowing lots of conversation and lingering and interruptions to hyperfocus on some little piece of a picture.” A lot of adults have difficulty tolerating interruptions during a readaloud. There’s a whole big conversation to be had about how much background activity to allow — like, Legos keep little hands busy but can be very noisy. There are ways to work around that (spread out Legos on the floor before reading, since the noisiest part is the digging through the bin–things like that). But what I want to focus on right now are the interruptions that come when a child is looking at the book with you and starts talking over the narrative–pointing at things in the art, or otherwise being chatty about the book instead of listening to the story. This activity may actually be an indication of a big leap forward in skill acquisition–but we adults don’t always see it that way!

Here’s an example — when Rose was five or six, I remember reading her My Father’s Dragon. She was right at the point of emergent literacy, beginning to recognize words like street signs and store names as I mentioned above. We were about halfway through this short novel as a read-aloud when she started pointing out Elmer’s name on every page. And “the dragon” and “the cat” — words repeated often in the story. But mainly it was the word “Elmer” (the main character). It got to where I couldn’t get through a page, because she kept pointing at the name all over the place. And I had a moment of being irritated and wanting to hush her–now now, let’s listen to the story. But it hit me in a flash that what we were doing together — what SHE was experiencing in this moment — had changed. It had started out “listening to a story.” Now it was READING. She had learned a sight word and was putting this new skill to use, with numerous opportunities to “practice” it on every page. No curriculum in the world could top this skill practice, because it was completely voluntary and completely absorbing her. It was HER activity, not one imposed upon her from the outside.

So, in that hour snuggled beside her on her bed, I let go of the whole listen-to-this-story concept. I kept on reading to her, page after page, but that was merely a background activity providing the vehicle for her discovery. “Elmer…Elmer…the dragon…” — little finger pointing, skipping around the page. We finished the book that way, with Rose only half paying attention to the words I was reading. When I got to the end, she said it was the best book ever and asked me to start it over. The second time through, she listened raptly to the narrative. 🙂 Her brain had finished its self-assigned task. By the time I finished the book for the second time (a week or two later), she was reading very well on her own.

So that’s what I mean about stepping back to reassess an activity and your objectives….if a child is focusing on some part of the story that isn’t your voice reading the words, there is probably a very good reason. A wonderful thing about homeschooling is we have the luxury of time and space to allow this process to unfold at the child’s pace–there is no pressure to ‘get through’ a certain amount of material by a set date.

Picture Book Spotlight: Sophie’s Squash

October 15, 2014 @ 7:30 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight, Read-Alouds

Here’s a book I thought I’d blogged about before, but it seems I only mentioned it briefly.

sophie's squashSophie’s Squash

by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.

We first read this absolute gem of a picture book last year during the CYBILs. Fell so utterly in love with it—the lot of us—that a library copy wouldn’t do; we had to have our own. Huck and Rilla were overjoyed when I pulled it out this morning. Sophie’s instant bond with a butternut squash is utterly believable, and not just because Huck formed a similar attachment once upon a time. “Bernice” becomes Sophie’s best friend and closest confidant, all through a bright and beautiful autumn. But as winter approaches, Bernice begins to get a bit squishy about the edges. Sophie’s parents make gentle attempts to convince Sophie it’s time to let her friend go, but since their suggestions involve treating the squash like, you know, a squash, Sophie’s having none of it. Her own solution is sweet and heartwarming, and it makes my kids sigh that contented sigh that means everything has come out exactly right.

 

Best. Review. Ever.

January 21, 2013 @ 8:16 am | Filed under: Author stuff, Books, Read-Alouds, The Prairie Thief

There is nothing quite like the feeling of clicking to one of your favorite book blogs and discovering your own book is the day’s entry.

Dad:  Tell me about the “Thief” part of the title…
Lily:  The girl’s dad was accused of theft-ing.
Gracie:  You’re not even saying it right.  It’s “thievering.”

The Prairie Thief at Bookie Woogie. I’m thrilled. And that art! ASTOUNDING.

P.S. Gracie really is the Blurb Master.

Early Readers as Read-Alouds, and Other Book Suggestions for Three-Year-Olds

October 8, 2012 @ 5:48 pm | Filed under: Books, Early Readers, Inch and Roly, Picture Book Spotlight, Read-Alouds

Harmony asked:

I have a question which you may have written about somewhere… but anyway, I have a just-turning-3 boy. We’ve enjoyed a lot of the picture books you’ve recommended, but I think he may be getting ready for some longer books. I’m curious what chapter books have gotten your kids interested at early ages? Not to replace beautiful picture books of course! Just in addition. I’m thinking to try Winnie the Pooh… other ideas?

I guess I have two questions, because another thing I’ve wondered about is early readers. I think my son would love Frog and Toad, and Elephant and Piggie–but should I save those for when he can actually start to read them himself? Have you ever struggled with this?

These are great questions. I’ll start with the second batch first: nope, I’ve never saved beginning readers for actually-beginning-to-read children because—well, at first it was probably because I couldn’t wait to share those stories, but also it’s because beginning readers make such wonderful read-alouds for toddlers. It’s funny, though, now that you’ve made me consider the question, Harmony: I don’t think I’ve ever seen much discussion on this topic. But here’s what I think—wait, to get there, first I have to back up to picture books.

Picture books are written to be read by an adult to a child. The vocabulary is often quite sophisticated—think of Beatrix Potter: “Jemima Puddle-duck became quite desperate. She determined to make a nest right away from the farm.” Many contemporary picture books are tending toward simple, spare text (many of them quite wonderfully, like I Want My Hat Back or the charming Me Hungry); but in my mind the form is dominated by longish stories with rich vocabulary.

(To run off on a tangent: I’ve known parents who steered their children away from picture books once the kids learned to read, or hit first grade. Too young, not challenging enough, etc. Au contraire, I say! Picture book text is often MUCH more challenging for an emergent reader than the Early Reader books, about which more in a second. Besides, no one, not anyone, is ever too old for a good picture book. I mean it. All the Places to Love or I Remember Papa can be every bit as moving and cathartic a read for an adult as Persuasion. The Quiltmaker’s Gift is better therapy than Pinterest. I get the same uplifted, happy rush from Mordant’s Wish as I do from About a Boy.)

I’ve had toddlers who liked to cuddle up and listen to long picture books (especially Jane, who spent nearly a year of her toddlerhood in a hospital bed—sitting and listening was one of a very limited range of options, in her case) and toddlers for whom the concept of sitting in one place for a 32-page stretch was a notion for another universe. (Hello, darling Bean.) 😉 For those children especially, but really for all my two- and three-year-olds, I drew (draw, since Huck is this age exactly) heavily on treasured Early Reader favorites like Little Bear, Frog and Toad, The Best Nest, Newt, Biscuit, Mouse Soup, Owl at Home—oh, anything by Arnold Lobel really. And yes, yes, yes, absolutely Elephant and Piggy. We’ve had stretches these past few years where I bet I read five or six Elephant and Piggy books a day—five or six times each! Both Wonderboy and Rilla made giant leaps toward reading thanks to Mo Willems and his animal antics.

I also had the fun of trying out both my Inch and Roly series and Fox and Crow Are Not Friends on my ready-made test audience here at home. I read my littles the manuscripts straight off the computer. It’s always helpful to read your work aloud, but when you’re writing an early reader or picture book, it’s imperative: if I’m going to inflict a book upon a parent who may, if I’m lucky, be called upon to read the book over and over and over, I’ve got to do my best to make sure that isn’t a torturous experience. And not just that. Reading a manuscript aloud always alerts you to clunky bits that need more polish. And children, even (especially?) your own children, will inform you with unabashed clarity where you’ve lost their attention. My early reader manuscripts are much tighter after a round or two (or ten) of read-alouds to Huck and Rilla. When they start asking for ‘that story’ again—‘you know, Mommy, that book on your computer’—then I know I’m on the right track.

Anyway, to return to the question:

By all means, add Early Readers to the toddler’s read-aloud shelf.

As for the first question, about longer-form read-alouds for three-year-olds, we usually do Pooh around age four (though Rilla didn’t cotton to it at that age; nor did Wonderboy), and we nearly always read the My Father’s Dragon series as our first novels. I have a list of other good read-alouds for four-year-olds here. I remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Jane at age four, and Rose’s obsession at that age (and long afterward) was anything to do with Greek myths, but Rilla (at age six) still MUCH prefers picture books and Early Readers over anything that looks like a novel. She eyed Brambly Hedge with suspicion at first, because of its size (we have the large Treasury edition that includes all the books), but its profusion of pictures won her over. She also loved The Cottage by Bantry Bay and The Family Under the Bridge. But now it’s back to ‘Too long, not enough pictures, I only like picture books.’ Which is fine with me. Our picture-book collection occupies a formidable amount of square footage in this little house; it’s got to earn its keep. 🙂

Besides the list of short novels and story collections I linked to above, let me throw in a vote for Thornton Burgess’s various animal stories (available in inexpensive Dover editions). Also the Family Treasury of Little Golden Books: obviously, those are picture books, not novels, but the older Golden Books tend to be quite text-rich. Any good collection of folk or fairy tales is an excellent choice for three- and four-year-olds (though don’t be surprised if most fairy tales turn out to be too long for a three-year-old to hear in one sitting; that goes for any longer-form prose story, really). Just So Stories—delicious—already on my other list, I think.

As I list all these suggestions, I’m aware that Huck (who will be four in January) is not ready for many of them. Too much text for his busy, bouncy body. I could woo him with Just So Stories, I think (note to self: give it a try) and the Little Golden Books, but he wandered off quickly when I was reading a Burgess story to Rilla the other day. What he wants, over and over and over and whyyyy did we succumb to the request?, is a Thomas the Tank Engine 8×8 we picked up after my booksigning last week. I am Beezus, he is Ramona, and this book is our Scoopy.

(I guarantee you no one involved in the publication of this Thomas book read it out loud even once, much less six times a day, every day for a week. I’m just saying.)

Speaking of picture books and early readers! (And every other kind of children’s book.) There’s still a week left to nominate your favorite books of the past year for the CYBILs Awards. Book apps, too! That’s the committee I’m serving on this year. I’d love to hear what your 2012 picks are.

Oh, and it’s Monday, which means a new Thicklebit.

Chapter book suggestions for a four-year-old

June 15, 2011 @ 2:24 pm | Filed under: Books, Chapter Books, Read-Alouds

Thought I’d start tackling some of your open thread questions. Here’s one from sashwee:

Do you have chapter book recommendations for a 4yo girl who is very verbal, and has a good attention span for listening, (similar to your Rilla?) but still only 4 (well almost 5) and not ready for the full brunt of…life?…fiction?

Matter of fact, I do!

(Last night, at the weekly kidlitchat on Twitter, I realized that one of the things I enjoy most in the whole world is helping people find good books to read—being a book matchmaker. If there were such a thing as eHarmony for readers, I could totally work there.)

All right, suggestions for a four-year-old who is ready to listen to chapter books:

My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Our family’s favorite choice for that first “book with chapters” read-aloud. Scott is working his way through the trilogy with Rilla right now.

• The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I’ve written much about this lovely tale here and here.

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards.

Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley, and its sequel, More Milly-Molly-Mandy. Like Naughty Little Sister, these are episodic books; each chapter is its own little story. Milly-Molly-Mandy’s busy daily adventures—very much rooted in simple domestic village life, running errands for her family, staying alone for the first time, deciding what to spend her hard-earned pennies on—have enchanted all four of my girls around age four or five.

Winnie-the-Pooh (does that go without saying?)

• the first two Betsy-Tacy books can be perfect for a five-year-old, but I have found my girls really clicked with Betsy at a slightly older age—perhaps seven or eight. (More about my Betsy-Tacy devotion here.)

• Sid Fleischman’s hilarious Farmer McBroom tall tales. I recommend starting with McBroom’s Zoo, which can be found in the collection: McBroom’s Wonderful One-Acre Farm: Three Tall Tales.

• Kipling’s Just-So Stories. I began reading these to Rilla at age four and she adores them—the belly laughs are irresistible. I rather suspect, however, that she believes “O Best Beloved” is referring to her specifically and is likely to be disgruntled when she realizes I read those words to her big sisters before her, in their day.

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (the very first one, which has a special kind of sweetness and earnestness to it—this was a head-over-heels-in-love book for Jane at age 4).

Old Mother West Wind and other Thornton Burgess animal stories—now, for us these were hit or miss. I had come kids adore them, and others who found them dull.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater. In our house, this is a read-aloud reserved exclusively for the daddy.

Pippi Longstocking, of course!

The Borrowers by Mary Norton, and The Littles by John Peterson. When it comes to tiny people living hidden in human houses, I’m a Borrowers girl all the way. Then again, the Littles have tails.

Tumtum and Nutmeg by Emily Bearn. Small animals behaving like people: almost as much fun as tiny hidden people. And what’s that other very young mouse-people series I’m forgetting? Hedge something. Brambly Hedge! That’s it.

• I don’t find Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann Stories very easy to read aloud—he tends toward the insipid—but I remember how magical I found those books as a very young child. Sodapop fountains!

The Cricket in Times Square. The kind of middle-grade story that always seems to hold our current four-year-old spellbound when Dad is reading it to the older kids.

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron. There’s a sequel, too—More Stories Julian Tells. I love these books! Need to pull them out for Rilla and Wonderboy.

This list could go on for a really long time. I know there are many great books I’m omitting, but these are the ones that come most immediately to mind. HOWEVER, it is almost guaranteed that as soon as I publish this post, I will kick myself for forgetting some particular favorite. Like actually just this minute I have remembered Doctor Boox. I adore Doctor Boox. I must go and find our copy of Doctor Boox immediately. Immediately!

I have a whole nother batch of suggestions for a six- or seven-year-old. For a four-year-old, I’ve seen the most connection and delight with very simple, homey kinds of books. That’s why I haven’t included authors like C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, Kate di Camillo, E. Nesbit, Edward Eager, E. B. White, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, and Frances Hodgson Burnett—I save those for a few years down the road. (Having said that, James and the Giant Peach might be a great fit for a four-year-old. Humongous bugs! What could be better?)

For a four-year-old, I would also reiterate my enthusiastic recommendation of Jim Weiss and Jay O’Callahan story tapes.

And folk and fairy tales by the dozens.

And I’ll add this thought—although Rilla (who turned five in April) has indeed enjoyed several of the chapter books I’ve mentioned above, and her My Father’s Dragon time with Daddy is her favorite part of the day, she would rather read picture books with me than a “Long Book” at this point. Almost every day she goes around the house collecting a stack of picture books for “quiet reading time.” (By that she means being alone with me—it isn’t actually all that quiet.) 😉 I haven’t added to the Rillabook list in the sidebar for weeks because lately all her choices are books we’ve read and read and read again. I find this to be very common at the emergent reader stage—as opposed to, say, a ten-year-old who seems to want new new new more more more at a rate nearly impossible to keep up with.

(I think these cycles of rereading beloved favorites and hungering for exciting new frontiers continue all through life. In my early teens, I was a binge rereader—both of my childhood favorites and of newer passions like the Pern books or—dare I admit it—the unflinchingly formulaic Silhouette First Love romances of the ’80s, for which I actually had a subscription. It makes sense that in times of great change or stress, formula fiction and the deeply familiar offer special comfort and appeal. This is probably the same psychological need that makes me crave nothing but Agatha Christie when I’m sick.)

I’m sure other people will have great suggestions in the comments! (Hint hint.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go introduce my children to Doctor Boox.

Related post: Early Readers as Read-Alouds, and Other Book Suggestions for Three-Year-Olds.