I didn’t always love to read as I do now, but I have always loved to be read to. My mom was a natural read-aloud reader. She used inflection and changed her voice for different characters. When I was in elementary school, she read Anne of Green Gables to my sisters and me. I can remember lying under the Christmas tree in the living room, staring up through the lighted branches as she told us about redheaded Anne breaking her slate chalkboard over Gilbert’s head for calling her Carrots. When my mom came to the part where beloved Matthew is dying in Anne’s arms, we all cried silently so we could hear what sweet words Matthew might say to his adopted daughter before he was gone.
In school my teachers would often read a few pages from a book before dismissal or after lunch. Bridge to Terabithia or Tuck Everlasting or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Sometimes they would ask us to lay our heads on our desks while we listened. More times than I would like to admit, I’d lift my head at the end of her reading to find a drool puddle on my desk where I had become so fully engrossed in the book that I forgot to swallow.
Each time a new Harry Potter book was released, my husband would read it to me in the evenings as I crocheted or folded laundry. Besides the fact that I’m partial to his baritone, it was a great way to spend time together and a multi-tasking technique. It wasn’t until the movies came out that we realized he had been pronouncing many of the British names incorrectly.
When my daughters were 4-years old, I began working my way through the read-aloud chapter books I felt were essential to their education. We started with the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, then we moved on to The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Runaway Ralph. We read through all of the Little House on the Prairie series, deciding after we finished These Happy Golden Years that Laura’s husband Almanzo had figured out romance when he built her a perfect pantry with shelves designed for her ultimate comfort. I was able to relive my childhood while reading through these classics.
I still love to read to kids. I love to see their faces change when I turn a page to something surprising or silly. I love to hear them say, “Don’t stop! Keep reading!” when I finish a chapter or a page. When our youngest son came to us at age 5, he had never been read to. This, plus the fact that he didn’t know English, made me wonder if he’d share our love of books. We were happily surprised when, almost from his first day in our family, he indicated that he wanted to be read to. The simple picture books on the shelf in his room became some of his favorite things. When he didn’t understand the text, he could look at the pictures and decode the story. Often he would point to something on the page and say “What?” (one of his first English words). We would explain it in every way we could think of, even act it out, to let him know what was happening in the story.
Now that he is finishing up kindergarten and starting to read himself, the excitement for books in our house is like this recent stretch of beautiful spring weather. Him sounding out words as he reads the paper books his teacher sends home is like a gentle breeze floating through open windows. And the smile on his face when he’s finished one is pure sunshine.
For lists of the best read aloud books, check out the links below: