Thursday, January 22, 2015

Favorite Picture Books

My first post about reading aloud featured only chapter books, but we've been reading to our kids since they were babies, so I thought I would feature some picture books that we've really loved.

What do People Do All Day? - Richard Scarry - This has a 2-page spread for various settings, such as a bakery or a saw mill. There's so much to learn as it describes the different steps of how everyday things are made, and the different people and machinery involved. So much to look at and point to!! We read this over and over, not all at once, maybe focusing on 2-4 pages at a time, because it is to take in! We loved Richard Scarry's "Busytown" books, but this one was one of our favorites of them.

You Are Special - Max Lucado - Simple but powerful story about how each person is special and loved, and not to let other's opinions dictate your self-worth. A beautiful allegory of God's unconditional love. We loved all Max Lucado's picture books featuring the Wemmicks, including If I Only Had a Green Nose (great story about not following the crowd).

The Red Thread - Grace Lin  - A touching fairy tale about a King and a Queen that search for child to bring into their home. We love how Grace Lin brings Asian culture into children's books. Two others of her picture books that we enjoyed (and introduced our kids to Asian culture) are The Ugly Vegetables and Dim Sum for Everyone. She's one of my favorite Asian American authors.

Quick as a Cricket - Audrey Wood  Beautifully illustrated book that celebrates the diversity of personal attributes - quiet, loud, slow, quick, small, large, etc.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom - Bill Martin, Jr. Great introduction to the alphabet! The rhythmic prose just begs to be read aloud!

This is just a small sampling of the great books we read when the kids were toddlers and preschoolers. Of course, there's so many more that are great read-alouds for the younger crowd, including all the Dr. Seuss books, Corduroy books, the Berenstain Bears (our kids LOVED these, but there's too many to list, and hard to pick a favorite), But really, ANY book is probably better than no books, and kids will gravitate to their own favorites. It's a little overwhelming, actually, to see how many picture books out there there are, but the more you read, the more ideas the kids will be able to explore!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Our Favorite Read Aloud Books

We are a family that LOVES reading aloud.

We began when our first child was just 6 months, and we haven't stopped. Along the way, we expanded from bedtime reading during our 10-11 hour car trips (I didn't want to just throw them in front of electronics) to visit family. To save our voices, we started using audiobooks on CD. Our first trip using audiobooks was probably about when the kids were 4 and 6 years old. They are now 8 and 10, and any car trip over 2 hours includes a book on CD. When we're at home, we read aloud after dinner or during quiet moments during the weekends. Some of the schoolwork we do as read-alouds too, because sometimes, reading aloud is what it takes to get them interested in the book enough for them to read it independently.

There's so many reasons we love reading aloud:
  • It introduces ours kids to more advanced literature, with more vocabulary and complex sentence structure, than they can read independently.
  • It lets them explore different genres that they are unlikely to pick on their own.
  • It something we can all participate in and enjoy as a family, creating wonderful bonding moments and something we can all talk about together.
  • It fosters discussion about a lot of different topics, opening up many teachable moments. There's history, sociology, psychology, science, culture...
I keep a running list of all the books we've been reading, but here are some of my favorites (the links below link to the book listings at the Goodreads website, where I like to review the books we've read. Because the reviews may have spoilers, beware of that if you want to read people's comments):

Wonder - R. J. Palacio - Wonderful story about being different and finding your place. 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe  - C.S. Lewis. We loved the whole Narnia series, but especially this first one.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Grace Lin . Beautiful, fanciful story taking place in China

Tales of the Kingdom -  David and Karen Mains - Allegorical tale of God's Kingdom. This is a trilogy and we loved the entire thing.

   Little House series - Laura Ingalls Wilder - Loved these classics!

Treasures of the Snow - Patricia St. John - A heartwarming story of forgiveness and love and change of heart.
Winnie-the-Pooh - A.A. Milne (and of course, the House at Pooh Corner too) - Always a classic

The World According to Humphrey - Betty Birney  - fun, but also touching, story told from the point of view of the classroom hamster.  We read the whole series, and I wouldn't say we loved ALL of them, but I loved the first one, and many of the others were very good as well.

Little Britches Series - Ralph Moody -  This is an autobiographical series written about the author's boyhood, in the early 1900s. It's almost like a 'Little House' series for boys. The first installment starts with the family moving west to become ranchers in Colorado, and the remaining books follow Ralph to various places in the US as their family moves around. There's a wonderful theme of hard work and resourcefulness and family that runs through the series. 

The Hobbit - J. R.R. Tolkien - This is one of our favorite classic fantasy stories. It's got quite a lot of humor and adventure in it.