world read aloud day

picture books

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.

he loves geronimo stilton

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:

the pull back

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Categories: Uncategorized | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “world read aloud day

  1. Such an awesome post. Yesterday was rather busy with farm chores and soccer but we read HP (I know, I know) and Story of The World. We read together every day. We also love Wind In The Willows, we really loved the Narnia series and the Hobbit. Both of the boys have read the trilogy of My Side Of The Mountain which my husband read to them first. If it is a book – we kinda sorta read it here at this farm. I just took a picture about an hour ago of the boys, bed head and pj’s sitting on the couch reading before even asking for coffee. 🙂

    Read on!

    • I was just looking the other day for our audio copy of Story of the World, Vol. 1 but it seems to have gone AWOL. i can’t even estimate how many times my girl listened to that (certainly setting the stage for her history geekiness which continues to this day) and I was just thinking it was time for G to hear. and, yes! narnia! not my favorite, but he and the husband read them and then he listened to the audio books from the library over and over. same thing with the hobbit. the basic “rule” in our house is that we read the book first and then the audiobook is fair game. I don’t always enforce this, and story of the world is one big exception (something about the sing songy tone of them, I find very irritating myself). yay books!

  2. Yes, it is hard for me to imagine houses where reading together isn’t happening because it is kinda the backbone of my parenting and homeschooling. We read for fun, to learn, to stop fights and calm nerves, to counter boredom, and of course, to settle for the night. Right now we are reading some harry potter, the secret garden too (i think i saw you mention it and we haven’t read it and I needed a chapter book just for Acacia and I while the boys are at classes), true stories of old oregon, norse myths (so, so good!), aesop’s fables, the dangerous book for boys (for my sweet luca, who likes stories quite a bit but is by far the most practical of us all!), and the daily picture books from our meager shelves or the library basket. Cadence loves books already too, and so we are reading the big read barn by margaret wise brown and puppies, pussycats, and other friends by gyo fujikawa about 100 times a day.

    Hooray for books!!

    • yes! all that! if i hadn’t written that entry quickly last night while everybody was squalling for dinner, i meant to include that reading isn’t just an obligatory thing i do (like the “15 minutes a day” campaign) but is THE thing. i can’t even quantify how important and huge it is.

      are you reading the D’Aulaires book?

      • yes, the D’Aulaires, although we had to request it from the library so we started with some others they had on hand…I can’t believe I hadn’t read any of these before…I find them fascinating and tragic and funny and love that they are a whole story in comparison to say, the greek stories. And I never knew the places I was seeing their influence in other works or our own language before, now I want to read the Lord of the Rings with Olorin but read alouds that are fit just for the two of us don’t really work anymore, and I’m not sure he could make it through on his own yet.

      • well, you know we like Norse myths enough to have a Freya!

        how does O listen to music? cd? mp3? can you get the audio book in a format he can listen to with headphones while he draws? freya has read the 1st book on her own, but not the whole trilogy. she and the old guy read those at bedtime several years ago. i’ve never read any of them!

    • OMGoodness The Big Red Barn was a nightly reading with both the boys. We had our favs for sure. We do now too and they are not long ones – THe Ox Cart Man – sorry but I am now hearing my youngest talking to his brother and using words like Weirdo, Mohawk Man, Mom the chattering chipmunks (and other stuff I can’t say for sure because I am tired). I need to go read to them. Maybe from the bible so they learn about being nice to OTHERS. Or, we can read that book about kindness and Bach we have. Yes. They actually wrote a book about Kindness and Bach.

  3. your love for books has always always inspired me. had i only know it was read out loud day, perhaps i wouldn’t have said yes: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-mer-family/6818506010/in/photostream/ . had we not read elsewhere, i would have felt guilty. all together, right now, we are enjoying: Al Capone does my shirt out loud with lots of picture books. O is reading a Percy Jackson book out loud to E & P and then we have different audio books going too.

    confession: i don’t think i’ve ever read The Wind In the Willows. hangs head in shame and commits to reading it this spring out loud and outside as much as possible. (insert hand shake here.)

    • oh, no shame. it’s not exactly on the Must Read list these days. but it’s just so good, so very well written. and we’re awfully fond of the characters.

      and that picture! i have the same thoughts. in fact, i am such a Computers-at-the-Library curmudgeon that my boy only gets to use one there when he visits with his dad. ha! you seem to be much more moderate in your disdain.

  4. Oh, how I loved Little House on the Prairie, and all of Laura Ingalls Wilder, starting with Farmer Boy when my daughter was 4 (now 28). Laura’s family is still routinely a part of our conversations (“How do you think Ma would have handled this?”, Can you imagine how hard [insert personal trial] would have been in Laura’s time?”, “If they forgot to water their garden, they would be starving now”). Love me some pioneer strength! I used to read Hank the Cowdog, in my best ranch dog voice, for the kids if they would shell peas for me. I would recommend that series to anyone, but especially if you have a little guy. Reading was definitely a reward and pleasure, not an obligation.

    • yay, Little House! Mary and Laura are like my kids’ invisible sisters! we like to imagine what Laura would think about all of our stuff. remember what a treasure it was when they found one little half-buried bead?! sometimes i can’t even be bothered to dig a bead out of the dustpan when i’m sweeping.

      thanks for the Hank the Cowdog suggestion, we’ve not read those yet, but another friend recommended them to me, as well!

  5. Angela

    Hello – had to comment on this wonderful post. We joke that we are communal readers who come from long lines of communal readers… We have a boy with asperger’s who is 10, and girls 7 and 5. Nothing soothes the stormiest heart (or the most bitter girl fight) like the old Margaret Wise Brown little golden books – Color Kittens, The Whispering Rabbit, The Train to Timbuctoo, The Sailor Dog…seriously, those stories = world peace. We love so many of the books above; I add my recommendation for Hank the Cowdog, and my son also lately loves The Cricket in Times Square, James & Giant Peach, and Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (or however you spell it), as well as a 1950s bug book we picked up at goodwill (bugs, neither they nor our understanding of them has changed so much in 60 years). My girls quote LIW like she’s their invisible sister – if you haven’t read Wendy McClure’s HILARIOUS book, The Wilder Life (came out about a year ago), you really, really should. :> Best to you & yours.

  6. Angela

    ALso, sorry, it came to me as I hit post that I had to add it – Noel Streatfeild’s Magic Summer. Out of print but probably at the library. Way better than all the shoes books put together. Probably my children’s overall favorite – can’t believe I left it out. :>

    • thanks for the nice comment! Magic Summer is a title unfamiliar to me. I will be sure to look it up!

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