Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The one about the read alouds

In my last post about reading aloud to children I was telling you about the transition from sitting in your lap and looking at pictures while you read to them, to lying in bed listening and following along in their imagination as you read to them. A child needs a little practice developing his focus and attention to stay with you. One of the things we found helpful in this transition is poetry. I suggest A. A. Milne's lovely books, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. Both are filled with sweet, funny poems that the kids love. Don't try to rush through them. Read 3 or 4 over a few times for them to enjoy the rhythm and the play on language. Caroline Kennedy put together one of my favorite anthologies with poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou and many others. really great stuff. and if you have a poetry phobia, put it aside for a little while. Children really "get" poetry.

Anthologies are another great way to build attention. We read from Grimm's Fairy Tales (yes the original ones), Greek Myths (Usborne puts out a really nice collection), Aesop's Fables, a collection of Oscar Wilde's children's stories, a book of American Tall Tales, The Just So stories, collections by Thorton Burgess (great animal stories that tell a bit about the animal, very sweet.) and we read selections from a book of Saints (because that's how we roll.) We tried the Wind in the Willows when the kids were 4 and 5 and we chose to put it down for a little while. The stories are wonderful but the language is a bit advanced. We'll probably go back again this summer. Most of these short story readings can be done in an evening's reading time but some of the longer ones are best divided in half to help the child learn to carry over a plot to the next day. Before you start the second half, you might want to ask the child questions about what they remember and fill in any fuzzy spots.

When we were ready to jump into chapter books, we started with beginning reader chapter books. The plots were simple and the language not particularly challenging. The kids enjoyed reading a few of the Magic Tree House books, and Usborne put out some simplified versions of classic books that we read. (I debated doing this. I wanted my kids to hear the real version of the Wizard of Oz, but after reading about classical education and the way a subject is revisited every four years to a higher degree of understanding, I thought these would be the perfect getting your feet wet into some of the more complicated classics. and Usborme does a nice job with it.)

Some of the chapter books that we have loved

  • My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
  • The Waterhorse by Dick King Smith
  • A Mouse Called Wolf by Dick King-Smith
  • Stuart Little by E.B. White
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
  • The Henry books by Beverly Cleary
  • All things Kate DiCamillo (We LOVE her.)
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
  • Nim's Island by Wendy Orr
I know there are others I can't think of at the moment. I'll start a list on the sidebar. But, this list should give you a lot to chew on. Please list any of your favorites in the comments. We are always looking for new books!


Asha said...

cakes -- at what age do you start this transition? R is an only child and almost 2. I feel like he might be a little young for this type of reading until he's closer to 3 or maybe even older... but what do I know?! On one hand, I don't want to rush things because maybe he's not ready, and also, I just love this age so much, but to be honest -- reading books and transitioning to the imagination phase is one of the things I am most excited about in parenting. :)

S.A.H.M. I AM said...

i love that you have posted this! i have been trying to decide on what to read to my 5 yr olds. i loved the mouse and the motorcycle and seeing it posted here reminded me of it! : )

Cakes said...

Asha~I think you're right. Go ahead and keep enjoying picture books with him for right now. You can always read short poems or nursery rhymes while he is doing something else. Those need to be a part of his cultural literacy, too. We started reading while they were in bed around 4 and 3. But, we still cuddle up with books on the couch as well.

Even story books with limited pictures would be a good place to start. But, I wouldn't rush anything. There are important things for him still to learn at 2 and 3, mostly just the love of language and connecting the markings on the pages of a book equals words that can make stories.

Enjoy it! I know just what you mean about getting ahead of yourself, but this cuddling with books goes by sooooo fast.

cat said...

Oh thanks! Great to have a list.

Anonymous said...

Haven't been here in a LONG while but enjoy reading what and how you write.

Speaking of E.B. White, we also read 'The Swan Trumpet.' They found the 'Stewart Little' ending a little abstract. My two decided that he WILL find his friend very soon.

Charlotte's Web had my son sobbing when she died! But they were happy in the rebirth and were consoled somewhat.

Haven't read any of the other books you list here. Will get a couple one of these days.

Another thing we employ is telling stories. Some classics, some epics. An adult tells them the stories. Then we also tell them made up stories. Sometimes we go around making a story where each person takes a turn saying two or three lines and the next person adds to the story.

PS: Glad everyone is over the flu