The recent announcement of the school system’s grant award from the Elgin Foundation to encourage parents to read aloud to their children gives us the opportunity to echo what we’ve been saying for years—reading aloud is important, healthy, and fun.
Jim Trelease, whose first edition of “The Read Aloud Handbook” was published in 1982, describes several fascinating studies which reveal that children who are read to get better grades. The more conversation, the more verbalizing, the more vocabulary kids hear, the better readers they become, the better students they will be, and the more successful they are in life. In short, kids who read succeed. The concept is so important that we say it on our library cards: People who read succeed.
So what should you read to your kids (or your family)?
The simplest answer is whatever you like. Whatever they like. Whatever is at hand, such as, for example, this newspaper, or a magazine, or a cereal box. Reading should be a pleasant activity that strengthens the already close relationship you have with your loved ones, so you want to choose books that you and your kids will find interesting and entertaining.
And, of course, we have lots of possibilities we can suggest to you.
To newborns, toddlers and preschoolers, read nursery rhymes. Their rhythm and rhyme and the sheer joy of the sounds of language which they convey are important to building pre-reading skills.
Primary age children need to hear fairy tales in their classic versions (Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm Brothers) and folk tales (the Jack tales, Joel Chandler Harris’ tales of Uncle Remus).
Elementary age listeners will enjoy hearing series such as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books read aloud. “Freddy the Detective” stories by Walter Brooks are delightful. Brian Jacques’ exciting tales of Redwall will appeal to upper elementary level listeners.
While the focus of the school system’s program is on children in the early grades, Jim Trelease recommends reading aloud to older kids as well. There are many books for older readers which the whole family can enjoy listening to.
Middle schoolers would find classics like “Sounder” or “The Phantom Tollbooth” appealing, as well as more recent titles such as “Eragon”, “Because of Winn-Dixie”, “The Graveyard Book”, “A Year Down Yonder”, “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, and “The Lightning Thief”.
Teens will enjoy a broad range of reading including poetry, short stories, novels, biography and history. Try “Tuesdays with Morrie”, “The Greatest Generation”, “Rocket Boys”, “Seabiscuit”, “The Perfect Storm”, “The Secret Life of Bees”.
If you have a road trip coming up this summer, check out some audiobooks to entertain the whole family.
Audiobooks come in several formats, including CDs, downloadable wma and mp3, and cassette tape. The downloadable books are accessible from our website. You will need a library card (free), a computer and a portable listening device.
Listening to audiobooks will give you the added dimension of skilled interpretation of a writer’s words by a trained reader, often an actor. It can also be helpful to hear words, proper names and geographic place names pronounced correctly. You may enjoy listening to a particular reader so much that you will want to hear other books that narrator has recorded. Some favorites include Jim Dale who reads the Harry Potter books expertly, Ron Keith narrating a Redwall tale (his pronunciation of “squirrel” and his hissing snake are memorable), Barbara Rosenblatt with innumerable foreign accents in the Mrs. Pollifax series, and George Guidall who could read the telephone book and have rapt listeners.
For many more ideas about what to read aloud, consult Jim Trelease’s “The Read Aloud Handbook”, now in its 6th edition, see www.readaloudamerica.org, or ask us for suggestions. We love to talk books and are happy to help you find books you will enjoy. Visit us at www.tcplweb.org or call 988-2541.