Every day is a read aloud day at my house, but today (March 7) was actually World Read Aloud Day. Did you hear that, world? I hope you read something great. Reading out loud to my children is one of my favorite things, right there at the top of my Favorite Things list (and it’s a long list, so I’m not messing around here). I started collecting books to read to my children before I had children. And now, with more than thirteen years of parenting under my belt, my collection of children’s books has grown and we have a lot -A LOT!- of children’s books (it helps that I also love to poke around in secondhand shops). And we read them all.
The whole point of world read aloud day, though, is to inspire the effort to increase world literacy: Imagine a world where everyone can read… My multiplying hoard of out-of-print picture books isn’t helping world literacy, but who knows the good that will come from my young book lovers growing up and taking their book loving selves into the great big world. I don’t do it for some kind of altruistic ripple effect, though, I read to my kids for my own selfish reasons.
Reading to my children guarantees us shared experience and close contact. I hold all this reading responsible for us liking each other so darn much. Many of our favorites have become so engrained in our family history, so tattooed into my children’s psyches, that the books are practically elevated to honorary family members. In addition to reading to my children myself, we also have a lot of beloved audiobooks. Both of my kids have listened to E.B. White reading Trumpet of the Swan (recorded in 1978) so many times (thousands!) that I joke that E.B. White’s voice is their audio grandpa. The joke falls flat, though, because it’s kind of true. Their own grandfather moved to this corner of the country last year, and so they see him every month or so, but E.B. White’s slow, careful account of Louis and Serena and Sam Beaver is far more of an influential presence in their lives. My boy always has a messy stack of CDs by his little bedroom boombox, library holds or discs from our own collection, and he listens to something every time he’s in his room playing. But Trumpet of the Swan is the constant. That audiobook really is more to us than just a book.
Currently, I’m reading The Secret Garden to my boy for the first time. One of the fun parts about having such a big age gap between my children is that we get to revisit books again and again. While picture books are my number one love, we have a whole, tall bookshelf devoted to children’s chapter books. And we don’t give up one for the other. It’s not like once a kid in our house reaches a certain level we retire picture books, oh no! We read them all. I started reading chapter books to my girl when she was three. My son wasn’t quite as precocious of a listener, though, but now that he’s six, we’ve nearly caught up. The husband reads a whole different book, or series, to him at bedtime (currently they’re working their way through the L. Frank Baum category). I keep a fidgety daytime listener interested by reading during lunch, or with a big stack of blank paper and drawing supplies at the ready, or a pile of legos, or some other busy little thing to occupy fingers. I haven’t read The Secret Garden in probably eight years and I’d forgotten how much tricky pidgin Yorkshire dialog it contains. I’m a pretty excellent read-aloud-er (hey. but self-deprecating is really my top talent, so there’s the balance if it sounds like I’m being all braggy) and I’ll tell you that trying to replicate Martha the maid’s dialect is a challenge even for me. One chapter and I can use a drink or a nap.
As soon as we finish our current read it’ll be time to start our annual Spring reading of The Wind in the Willows. Do you have a favorite book to read aloud? Because that’s mine. I’ve read it every year to my kids since Two Thousand TWO when my daughter was just three. I’m an abysmal speaker, I trip over words and lose my train of thought and leave uncomfortable long and awkward pauses, but when I read out loud, especially such perfect prose as Kenneth Grahame’s classic, I get to hear such eloquence coming out of my own fumbley mouth. I love that. I also love that kids who listen to excellent books develop excellent vocabularies. It’s ok to read books to your children above their level of comprehension. I’d rather overestimate what my kids can understand, anyway, than shoot too low.
But we don’t just read great books. We read a lot of dumb stuff, too. My son is riding a year long, so far, crush on Geronimo Stilton. I thought the end was in sight when, lo! my desert dwelling goodwill trolling pal sent us a whole BOX full of Geronimo Stilton books. I groaned, my son cheered, and we compromised and read one or two a week. There are plenty of contemporary books I adore, I’m not a classic purist by any means, but that mystery solving goofball mouse with those thin paperbacks full of cheesy puns is my read aloud nemesis. But until my son can sound them out on his own (at six and three months, he’s not there yet), I’ll make a big cup of tea and sip (so as to not grit my teeth) through them.
What are you reading aloud at your house?
And! I’m not even going to tack on a photo quality apology footnote, I’m going to make a whole paragraph here. I’m having focus issues with my standard lens on my Rebel, hence the blurriness up top and that’s another lazy phone shot in the middle there. Picture taking isn’t even a thing I *do* anymore; I’m lucky to snap anything. But, because it might appear from the top photo that we have tidy shelves, I thought I’d include the real life pull back. In my son’s room, we aim to just get the books ON the shelves every couple of days (although, frankly, they don’t all fit). I really do alphabetize all of the chapter books, but the picture books are just a jumble and there’s usually some kind of mess happening all around them, too. Like this: