October 11, 2012

Choosing Books to Read with Your Kids

Within the last year, I have developed a new interest in children's literature.  I have always loved to read and have always read a great number of books to my kiddos beginning before they could even sit up!  I always made sure the books were appropriate and did not contain objectionable material, but outside of that, I read just about anything that was on the shelf for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.  While researching my homeschooling options this last year, though, I began to realize that there is much more that should be involved in choosing reading material for my kiddos.  I thought I would share a few things that I have learned, and I will also give you a few excellent books that our family has particularly enjoyed!

1.  Choose books that contain excellent illustrations.  Before children begin to read a story with words, they can read the story in a picture.  Find picture books that are detailed and exquisite in their illustrations.  Books that capture the attention of your little listener through its artistry prepare the way for excellent readers in the future.

2.  Choose books that have wonderful stories - stories that encourage adventure, excitement, imagination; stories that make you tingle with delight; stories that make your children ask you to read more or read it again. Choose books that connect you and your children emotionally to the characters within.

3.  Choose books that are well written.  Find books that have a natural flow and contain many descriptions.  Do not settle for books because they appear easy to read or understand.  A child's mind can take in much more than we adults can begin to fathom.  There is nothing that encourages me more as a "teacher/mom" than to hear my 4 and 5 year old using a big word they heard in our read aloud book.

4.  Choose books that are inspiring.  Books that encourage excellent character and noble ideas are just what you want your children to hear!  Read to them stories that show good conquering evil, stories that will inspire your children to make right choices even if they may not have any one else stand beside them.  Read stories that will encourage them to pursue excellence and honor and purity.

5.  Choose books that are for all ages.  You know you have found a wonderful book if the 4 year old and Daddy are both enjoying it!  This may sound impossible, but it really isn't.  Our family reads aloud almost every night before bed, and all of us enjoy the books.  Because we read a chapter or two each night, I allow our 4 and 5 year old to color or build blocks quietly, but they are always listening, and I am continually amazed by the questions they ask or how well they retell the story when we are finished reading.

6. Choose books that are classic - books that have been passed down from generation to generation.  Books that focus on quickly passing cultural trends are not usually books that will last or that contain the inspiration our children need.  Again, our children's minds are capable of so much more than we think.  Let's fill them with excellent material not just average.

What books does our family read?  I'll list some of them below. I get many of my book ideas from home schooling magazines (Sonlight and Veritas Press).  Even if you do not homeschool, you can go online and look at the many books they suggest for the different age levels.  I also use a book Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt which basically contains a book list for children from baby through teenager. It groups the books by recommended age.  Then, I also use the six steps above for choosing books from the library, consignment stores, thrift stores and book stores.  We have an unlimited supply of excellent literature out there.  Let's make sure we fill our children's minds with books of excellence...not just average!

Books our family has enjoyed:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
Big Trucks, Little Trucks by Peter Spier
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Henny Penny, The Little Red Hen, Three Little Pigs, The Gingerbread Boy, Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (There are over 20 of these sweet animal books written by Beatrix Potter.  I haven't found one my kiddos do not enjoy yet!)
Curious George by Hans A. Rey
Drummer Boy by Ann Turner
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Frog and Toad Are Friends (And many other books about Frog and Toad) by Arnold Lobel
Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower by Peggy Parish
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
Black Beauty by Anna Sewall
Heidi by Johanna H. Spyri
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann D. Wyss
Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
Dangerous Journey by Paul Bunyan (edited by Oliver Hunkin)
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
The Story of Sir Lancelot and His Companions by Howard Pyle
Christian Heroes: Then and Now Series by Janet and Geoff Benge
Childhood of Famous Americans Series

This is only the beginning!  We have read many, many more and have even more on our "To Be Read" list!  Maybe these titles can give you a wonderful start in the beginning of a beautiful tradition of reading together!


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