reading to kids

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reading to kids

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Modifié : Fév 20, 2007, 2:52pm

Ok, so I've been thinking, how does one determine what is appropriate to read to certain age groups? It seems to me that a lot of books are read-aloud material before they are something that the child can read on his own.

Modifié : Fév 20, 2007, 2:55pm

Way back in the 1970s I remember reading books to my three children like Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This was before it was taken up by television. They loved it - nice gentle books that can appeal to many ages. Yet realistic - I remember one of the books, not sure which, had an account of slaughtering the pig. There was a 5 year difference between eldest and youngest but that didn't seem much of a problem.

Fév 20, 2007, 3:56pm

Yes, reading aloud to kids (even those who can read on their own) is a wonderful activity for both parents and kids. By reading books a little ahead of the child's own reading level and attention span, you develop their vocabulary and comprehension, you trigger their imagination, and allow them to experience situations, places, and emotions beyond their day-to-day lives. Sometimes when you read the first chapter or two of a book, the child will get impatient and will read the rest himself to find out what happens.

You can expose children to art, science, geography, history, their own culture and others, poetry, and many other fields of human endeavour through great books. You can balance the children's own choices (which might not be great literature) with your own selections of works with significant literary and artistic value. You can supplement topics they are studying at school by reading books at home on a similar theme.

How to choose books to read aloud? For preschoolers, picture books work very well, to be read in one sitting. For 5 to 7 year olds, try longer novels that can be read a chapter or two at a time.

Look for classics that have stood the test of time, like A. A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, E. B. White, Cleary, Roald Dahl, C. S. Lewis, Ingalls Wilder, J R R Tolkien, and many more. Ask teachers and librarians for recommendations.

Check out websites like Amanda Craig's best children's books at
Craig is the children's book critic for the Times (London) and a novelist and journalist.

Trial and error works too. For example, if your 6 year old child finds The Wind in the Willows a bit too long and slow-paced now, try again in 6 months or a year. Some seven year olds might be ready for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but some may find the series too frightening, and would be better to wait until they are 8 or 9.

My kids aren't at the preteen stage yet, but I know there's a world of wonderful fantasy novels and coming-of-age novels for them when they get there, and I hope to read some of my favourites to them at that stage.

Fév 20, 2007, 10:06pm

You can check out The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease or Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt. Both have wonderful information and lists regarding each age group and genre of writing. You can check them out in your library, hopefully. I enjoyed looking at both of them.

I believe that the general rule is to try to read above their own reading level, however not to far above it. I tried reading the originial Swiss Family Robinson to my son when he was six. He was lost. I however, loved it and finished it on my own. I highly recommend it to all to read. Its fabulous.

Fév 21, 2007, 10:42am

We usually consider even the picture books to be "read to" books until children get past that "early reader book" (those Fox in Sox type books) stage. These days you sort of have to work to get an extended attention span because kids are so used to the quick cuts of tv. A slew (technical term) of picture books is a great way to build that up slowly. It's also important to remember that even if they are not in your lap and instead playing with some toys, they are still listening.
Books of fairy or folk tales are good because each piece is a discreet story.
And, of course, just because a child has learned to read doesn't mean reading to them stops dead. It's a wonderful thing to share a book with a child of almost any age (I've managed to captivate even middle schoolers reading to them!) because it's time shared in a childhood that will be much too short.

Fév 21, 2007, 12:27pm

One could argue, however, that if they grow up with limited exposure to TV, that won't be an issue. I would also agree with you on the reading to kids at any age thing. I remember my sixth grade humanities teacher, Greg Jones, taking time every day to read to us. Of course, we were reading on our own by then (this was a private school where all the classes were the equivalent of honor role public school classes) but there's still, and always will be, something magical about being read to.

Fév 21, 2007, 2:30pm

And parents, reading to children at bedtime, have that awful first moment when in a hurry to get downstairs you miss a few lines or surreptitiously turn over 2 pages instead of one. And of course your child knows the story too well to let you get away with it.

Fév 21, 2007, 2:34pm

>6 DeusExLibris:: "...there's still, and always will be, something magical about being read to."

I couldn't agree more! I like to think that it hearkens back to when listening to stories was one of the few forms of entertainment available, and the arrival of a storyteller in town was a cause for great celebration. There is an air of innocence and old-fashionedness (is that a word?) about being read to, especially when your age is in the double digits.

The Read Aloud Handbook that was mentioned above is a fantastic resource, as is How to make your child a reader for life by Paul Kropp. My mother read to my brother and I until I was in late elementary school, and my sister continues to read to her oldest sons who are in grades 4 and 5. When I visit, I have great conversations with the boys about the book they are reading and what's happened so far and what their favourite parts were - and I (as well as they) get a charge out of having me as a "guest reader" for a night or two.

I still retain a love of being read to that was fostered at home as well as at my elementary school (a public school), and as an adult I still thoroughly enjoy listening to audiobooks - especially if the reader uses different voices for different characters! Makes me not feel like so much of a goofball when I do that for my nephews. :-)

Fév 23, 2007, 12:53pm

Some of my favorite childhood memories of my mom are of her reading to us. She read the entire Little House on the Prarie series to me and my older sister. And to my younger siblings she would read books like Dr. Seuss. All of us loved when she read Are You My Mother?. She used great voices for each character.

I certainly agree that some books can be read aloud before the child is ready to read the book on his/her own. I was too young to read the Little House books but I loved listening to them.

And of course ages differ for when a child is ready for the next level of reading. Some 7th graders in the school where I teach are reading the Traveling Pants books (YA level) while others are reading from the children's sections. Depends on how fast each person grows up. :)

Fév 23, 2007, 6:12pm

A lot of the nights when our son was being read to by his father I was there too. It made for great family time and I was introduced to 'classics' I had missed like Pooh and to some wonderful new characters like Bunnicula.

As far as TV, there was no TV in our house for anyone until our son started college and it certainly didn't hurt him! ( In fact, HE told us about LT. )

Fév 23, 2007, 9:03pm

When my kids were little one of their favorite series of books were The Berenstain Bear books. I substituted the bears names(Brother & Sister Bear) and used my kids names. It was great because my son was the oldest and along came his sister, who took over the nursery. They had grandparents who took them shopping, fishing, and camping- just like their grandparents. In fact when my son started school and his teacher read The berenstain bears, he politely told her she didn't know how to read right because she didn't use his and his sister's name in the story. I almost scared this poor child for life when he realized that all those stories weren't really about the Richards family instead of the Berenstain family. We laugh about it now but he really was tramatized.

Fév 23, 2007, 10:08pm

Thank you Jim Trelease and Read Aloud Handbook. I got to read aloud (and still do) to my boys ages 23, 19,13, and 8. Yes they are all 5 years apart...needless to say...I have been reading aloud for some years now...hope it never stops and i will continue with grandchildren. Due to Trelease's book I found many great titles such as A Dog Called Kitty Goodnight Mr. Tom Tom's Midnight Garden.

Mar 8, 2007, 8:49pm

#11, That was the best story I've heard in a long, long time. And that's saying something. I laughed out loud.

Mar 9, 2007, 1:48pm

#11 I had a similar experience. My son's favorite story was "The old woman and her pig." When the library got "Dial-a-story." that story was the very first one offered. We called the number and after a minute, he hung up the phone. It seemed Dial-a-story just wasn't telling the tale right.

Modifié : Mar 9, 2007, 8:11pm

Most chapter books start out with material that a younger child can understand but have a hard time reading aloud. If they can understand the individual words read alone, that is usually a good book to start to read with them. I bought a wonderful book called

"The Case of Stolen Time- The Misadventures of Inspector Moustachio,"

by Wayne Madsen that was for 8-12 year olds. Nice fun mystery. My 11 year old loved it,read fast. I read it with my 7 year old taking turns she loved it. Start like that!

Avr 5, 2007, 7:40am

Basically, if a child sits through it, it's not too old for them.

The mistake I see most people making, is reading "too young" to their children and not giving them any room to stretch and grow into the book. (Which is. of course, completely different to reading "old favourites" or allowing the child to "read" the book to you.)

I can't recommend Mem Fox's Reading Magic highly enough.

Avr 12, 2007, 10:39am

It's a fact that children comprehend well above their personal reading level. Choosing books to read aloud becomes a matter of matching interests, attention span, and your own personal love of reading aloud.

I read aloud to my daughter until well into her teens. It was our ritual time together. I began fairly early with the Little House books, and by the time we quit we were reading some fairly sophisticated novels. Lots of great conversations.

Speaking of "voices," my husband also read to our girl when she was little. I still can hear him reading (with GREAT feeling and emotion), "Golden Publishing Company (dramatic pause) Racine, Wisconsin! Copyright, 1945!!!" She loved every word. She didn't care what he read at that age, just that he was reading to her, giving her his attention, and making her laugh.

For difficult to please middle graders (2nd through 4th or 5th, maybe) I highly recommend the Hank the Cowdog books by John Erickson, especially the early ones. Plenty of humor, plenty of opportunity for great voices!

PS. Homeschoolmom: I too loved Swiss Family Robinson - but I read it the first time just after I had read Robinson Crusoe. I was AMAZED at how much "stuff" the Robinsons had to do with, and how elaborate their various shelters became. I remember, even at age 13 or so, thinking that it was quite a coincidence that the wrecked ship had everything they needed on board for the taking!

Avr 17, 2007, 2:53pm

Somewhere in Trelease he remarks that children generally comprehend above the level they are reading until around 8th grade. To me this suggests that we should be reading aloud until at least that point (by which point, reading aloud may well be such an ingrained habit that it continues). I know that with my 19-month-old daughter, there's a pretty good chance she'll sit through books that publisher suggests are for 3-6 year olds. Most of the 4-8 stuff seems to be somewhat too long for her. Not that she doesn't love toddler books too, but at least we can find story books to read that don't drive us crazy by the third reading.

For those looking for read-aloud suggestions, in addition to the treasure at the back of Trelease, try Books Kids Will Sit Still For 3 by Judy Freeman. It's aimed at elementary school librarians, but the bulk of the book consists of an annotated bibliography of read alouds. Your library may well have it in their juvenile reference section. Each entry contains a brief summary, some ideas for activities, and additional title recommendations, some of which are thematic, others are by the same author. There are separate chapters for fiction, non-fiction & biography, folk and fairy tales, and poetry. Suggested read aloud ages are included for each entry. This current volume covers books published from 1995-2005...there are 2 others covering books published from 1990-95 and before 1990. I love this book and am hoping to convince my husband that we need our own copy. There's also How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Codell. It's chatty, aimed at parents and littered with dozens of topical reading lists, nearly all of which are good for reading aloud (if not, she comments on that fact). I was pleasantly surprised by it.

If you're like me and looking for books for the younger set, the best reference I have seen for books for 0-3s is Kathleen Odean's Best Books for Babies and Toddlers. Most of the other 'best books for children' kind of books are rather light on the pre-school suggestions. She's got 3 other titles out for older children, but they aren't specifically read alouds.

Avr 17, 2007, 10:43pm

My boys LOVED Bill Peet's books--especially Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent. I can still hear them chuckilng as that sea serpent hit his head on the ship. I even have a photo of #1 son reading the story to #2, both of them all tucky-womie in their jammies. THAT is a book I will keep forever!

Avr 18, 2007, 5:36pm

>18 elfschild: Elfschild--I read your entry in the "Welcome" thread. Looking forward to picking your brains :)

Avr 20, 2007, 3:37pm

#20 -- I'm doing a lot of learning as I go (my expertise is in how children learn math and science, not language), but it's fun. I'm looking forward to learning from the experiences of others. I remember how dismayed my husband and I were when we realized that most of the picture books that we remembered fondly from childhood were way too long for an infant. Discovering books for my daughter is a wonderful learning experience.

Avr 21, 2007, 7:50pm

#17 & #18

I have a friend who reads aloud with her children everyday. Her son just graduated from high school last year and her other son is 13. They all love literature and reading and have so much to discuss with each other. I think its wonderful.

I personally, need to get back into reading aloud everyday. We have been so busy lately that that is something I'd been cutting out and its a mistake to do so. Reading is very important and the children's love of reading needs to be nourished to grow.

Sometimes I find that the little ones don't want to sit, they would prefer to play. I let them play quietly, especially if I'm reading aloud a chapter book. My six year old daughter will sit during picture books, but loses interest in longer stories. Any suggestions?

Avr 21, 2007, 7:50pm

#17 & #18

I have a friend who reads aloud with her children everyday. Her son just graduated from high school last year and her other son is 13. They all love literature and reading and have so much to discuss with each other. I think its wonderful.

I personally, need to get back into reading aloud everyday. We have been so busy lately that that is something I'd been cutting out and its a mistake to do so. Reading is very important and the children's love of reading needs to be nourished to grow.

Sometimes I find that the little ones don't want to sit, they would prefer to play. I let them play quietly, especially if I'm reading aloud a chapter book. My six year old daughter will sit during picture books, but loses interest in longer stories. Any suggestions?

Avr 21, 2007, 8:03pm

Ok, this is just a random idea, but here me out. I've read a bit about a tradition in Victorian England of parents reading or telling stories to kids and "acting it out," using voices, even moving around doing things actively, even involving the kids at some points. Of course this was before TV was even theoretical, but it seems like a cool idea. If someone with kids who is already reading to them in bed consistently would be interested in trying this out, I would be interested in hearing how it went.

Avr 22, 2007, 6:56am

This may be due to very small sample size, but it appears that the British books that made it onto bookshelves of my sons' and my childhood were much richer in fantasy and plot and language than were the books by N American authors, e.g., a series about a cat & mice that lived in a church, Rupert the Bear series, books about fairies, a Golden Book with a cute little beetle protagonist. One could really lose oneself in their worlds!

Avr 30, 2007, 8:15pm

I try to read every day and manage it most of the time, I think. Most days we have multiple sessions (I try hard to stop whatever I'm doing when my daughter brings me a book to read), but sometimes it's just bedtime.

I think it's important to follow kids' cues and interests - you want reading aloud and listening to be enjoyable, not a chore. That said, I also think that reading aloud while kids are doing something else is great...they are going to listen if they find the story interesting. A few weeks ago our local library branch had a poetry program (the librarian was reading aloud while a balloon guy twisted animals and hats and swords and passed them out). At one point several kids were having a balloon sword fight while she was reading an illustrated copy of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and one by one they stopped fighting to look at the pictures and listen.

As for losing interest with longer stories, I would look for longer picture books and/or chapter books that are heavily illustrated (and please do share titles as you find them!) - things that might help bridge that gap. I'd also try chapter books where each chapter is a sort of story in itself - that way they don't have to remember too much of what has gone on before to enjoy what's being read (you can build up to that...remember to recap what went on before if it's important). Also, try talking to your daughter about the books she likes sitting and listening to to see what it is about them that's holding her interest. Illustrations are a powerful imagination aid and it could be that the pictures are inspiring or holding her attention in a way that just listening to words isn't right now.

Interest and attention change so much. Until my daughter was 4-5 months old, I could read anything (and often did just read aloud whatever I was reading for myself in addition to picture books), then for several months she would sit and listen for half an hour or longer (I once got through 16 picture books before she started to fidget - something that still amazes me). Now that she's walking, it's often just 2-3 books at a time (if that) and then she toddles off to do something else for a while. A lot of times she closes a book while I'm reading it as if to say 'not that story right now' - so we choose another one. I do try to let her choose though we have a house rule that we don't read the same book twice in a row so I don't go too crazy with repetition (she can, and has, alternated between 2 books for half an hour). If she's not interested, we try it again some other time. I have a growing list of stories that are a little too long for her (or much too long) that I want to try again later.

Mai 6, 2007, 7:15pm

elfschild-Thanks so much for your suggestions.

I had tried the Great Illustrated Classic books-they are abridged versions of the classics with a picture on every two page spread. That's was about six months ago though and she wasn't interested. I will try them again.

I prefer to read the original classic, but want the kids to enjoy reading and not get caught up in the heavy language that sometimes is in classics.

My kids do enjoy listening to books on tape. In fact, we just listened to Great Hall Productions' Three Musketeers and Robin Hood. I have the Wind in the Willows and am going to take that on vacation with us. I'm looking for good versions of the Little House books too. Any suggestions?

Juil 27, 2008, 2:32am

My son turned 12 last month. I have read aloud scads of novels to him and hope that he will never want me to stop. We've gone through all the Harry Potter, of course, as well as all 7 Narnia, all the Charlie Bone, all but one of the Chrestomanci books and a ton of others. I've only got approx. 300 books added in LibraryThing, but so far 54 of them are novels I've read aloud to my son. We both like fantasy and humour and lots of conversation, but light on the landscape descriptions please. We also both like series...where in subsequent books you feel comfortable with the characters from page one. I don't cook and I'm a terrible housekeeper, but I do know one thing I'm doing right as a mom is reading aloud to my boy.

Août 11, 2008, 6:05am

I have collection of photos of each of my nine grandchildren while they are reading a book. I have been a teacher and school librarian for many years and am passionate about reading and reading aloud to children from babyhood. My very favourite photo is of my oldest grandson, then 6years who was captured reading on the couch to his baby sister. They remained engrossed for 45 minutes during that particular session! It is an alltime favourite memory of their early years.

Nov 12, 2009, 8:07pm

Kids definitely love to have their parents read to them. Do you even try using costumes or puppet shows? That can be very effective. Also I guess depends on the age group. I would say the Harry Potter sereis is definitely scary for most kids.

Fév 15, 2010, 6:40pm

When my daughter was 2-3 years old she loved the book ARE YOU MY MOTHER so much she had me read it to her many times a day untill she was able to recite it word for word. Now I am reading to her son and that is the only book out of the collection that I am unable to find. It was such a joy to read it to her. Hayden my 11month old grandson loves to have us read to him. Im told this is a good sign for a little boy to be so into books. Amy

Fév 15, 2010, 7:47pm

Are You My Mother is by Philip D. Eastman (P.D. Eastman) and Amazon has it for sure, and other sites most likely. It is a wonderful book, both to read aloud, and to learn to read from.

Juin 27, 2012, 12:25pm

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