I've had a few readers recently ask how we choose our read aloud books. I wish I could tell you I had some grand plan about which books to read and when. Some map, covering sixteen important topics for growing maturing into responsible citizens. But you know me better than that. I read aloud to my children the same way I blog. Something catches my fancy, and I go with it.
Having said that, there are a few criteria I use in evaluating books. As far as picture books for my younger children, I have always (since Adalia was a baby) sought diversity. A good mix of fiction/non fiction, books about other countries, cultures and people, and books that reinforce our religious beliefs. I want my children to grow up knowing the United States is not the whole world, nor is this little part of Northwest Washington. Life is very different for children in New York City, or Texas, or Nepal, and I've always sought to find books that tell about other people and places.
And I only read books I like. You read that right. I learned back when Adalia was a toddler, that if she brought me a book I hated, I was more likely to put her off. "I'm busy" or "we'll read that later" or sigh in resignation and read the hated book. How much better to only keep books in the house I enjoy reading? Doesn't that limit what my poor children get to hear? No. There are way too many good books out there. You also won't find me reading books about Mickey Mouse, Buzz Lightyear, or books I consider just plain dumb. Sorry, but they're my children and I get to pick the books I read :)
But onto to chapter books. I sometimes pick them based on the History we are studying in school. Our last book was The Harmonious World of Johann Kepler. We loved it. It combined History, Geography, Math and Astronomy all in a book my children enjoyed listening too. How much do my littlest ones get out of books like this. Probably not a whole lot. But they do learn to sit quietly (great training for church). And sometimes they surprise me. Just last night Tucker (3) came up to me and asked, "Mama, was Johann's mom Old Winkwack?"- a witch from a fairy tale we recently read.
I try to switch between easier and more difficult books. This way my little ones aren't always lost. Just be for we read the book about Johann Kepler, we read the entire American Girl Kit series, which captivated everyone.
Another way I choose books is to pick ones I remember and loved from my own childhood. I love introducing and sharing with my children a book that impacted me. This is how my children were introduced to Tuck Everlasting (and my sixth grade teacher Mr. Buesseler is to thank for that. He read it aloud to our class).
We are currently reading The Number Devil. When I introduced this one, Adalia (13) said, "Mom, all you ever read to us is books about math and astronomy!" So I made a deal. I'd read the first chapter and if they hated it, we'd pick a new book. As you can imagine, I read the first chapter, and the children were begging for me to read the second. And so on. This particular books introduces higher math concepts (Algebra) in a fun way. The story line is so good, even my three and four year olds are loving this book.
I also like to fluctuate between fiction and non fiction. Historical fiction is a favorite genre around here for everyone.
Some other books we've read aloud and enjoyed are:
The Little House books
It seems to me that every book we've enjoyed together is an old friend. Just typing out these names makes me smile as it brings back memories.