There was a spot in my favorite tree where one branch divided into two horizontal
branches forming the perfect “Y” on which I could perch for hours devouring the latest American Girl or Babysitters Club book as a young girl. I can picture it like it was just this afternoon. Only slightly cooler in the shade with the sun filtering through the green leaves, little splashes of sunlight on the pages. The smell of the Texas heat…leaves, dirt, grass, crisp pages.
It was quite a shock to me when God gave me two rambunctious boys and the spirited girls that followed. I had always imagined myself having a large family, but I honestly expected they would all want to sit quietly and read for hours like I did (still do). Go ahead. Take a moment to laugh with (at) me.
My kids are now 11, 10, 8 and 8 and it is crazy noisy around here, but we did manage to foster a love for great literature by building family traditions and routines around reading excellent books as a family. Thankfully we have a few voracious readers emerging and I’ve realized they can be wrestling one minute, bantering over a board game the next, singing at the top of their lungs another and then take a break from the crazy, settle in for awhile and enjoy an old favorite or a recent pick from the library.
Books are treasures to me and it was so important to me that my kids love to read but it’s really not something that can be forced, just modeled, so I started choosing great books, classics, to read aloud to our kids when they were just toddlers. We had always read a lot of stories and board books throughout the day and at bedtime but I wanted to get them used to listening to truly great works of literature from a very young age. I wanted to have their imaginations ignited, to experience adventures and other cultures around the world, to help them develop a worldview in which they could see how big and beautiful this created world is and all the people in it so they would grow up into people who truly see, appreciate and love others. So we started out just reading short sections of great books, maybe just a few pages once they were kissed and tucked in, prayed for and sung to, when their eyes were heavy and ready for sleep.
Not all of our children are naturally gifted readers. Lord knows how I had to learn to lay that down. My fear was that those children would grow to hate books if reading was always connected with struggle and insecurities so I decided that I wouldn’t push them to perform or compare them with other kids their age (or compare myself with other moms!) But I could always read to them so their love for great stories could continue to grow and then when reading clicked they could take off!
Over time, a beautiful thing happened and still does, every night. I’m determined that until my kids are graduating and leaving this nest we will read together because we love not only the stories but the time spent close to one another. The adventures and laughter and tears create shared memories that become a part of who we are and our family identity.
The days may be busy and loud and crazy but we can always look forward to snuggling up (and maybe dozing off) to a good book together in the evening.
Here are some of my favorites divided (but definitely not restricted) by age:
Elouise Wilkin Stories especially We Help Mommy
Katy and the Big Snow from Mike Mulligan and More
Caps for Sale (you and your kids will love to act this one out!)
Three-Five Years Old (still loving the ones above):
Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born (beautiful book for adopted kids)
The House at Pooh Corner (we read these in preparation for watching Christopher Robin)
Hansel and Gretel illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Kindergarten-3rdish (still regularly reading the ones above because my kids still don’t get tired of them!):
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children (true stories from a veterinarian who did house calls in a small English town; you won’t want to put it down)
Everyday Graces (delightful excerpts from a treasure trove of stories that teach children different values and character traits)
Make Way for McCloskey (another collection that will have you giggling and reading over and over)
Little Bear (perfect early readers)
The Berenstain Bears books
Bread and Jam for Frances (any of the Frances books are a hoot)
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (the perfect book to foster a love for poetry in young ones)
The Wheel on the School (one of our favorites; its been years since we’ve read it but one of the kids referenced it in the past week)
Capyboppy (an hilarious true story)
Detectives In Togas (will leave you rolling in laughter)
Little Men (The lesser known sequel to Little Women took us months to read to our boys when they were 5 and 6 years old but we saw incredible strides of growth in character as they listened to this book)
The Little House on the Prairie series, most beloved to us is Farmer Boy
And with that, I need to follow the call of my bed! Obviously, you’d spend hundreds if you tried to fill your home library at once, so I recommend adding them to your Amazon Wish List and grabbing a few at birthdays and Christmas to add your family’s collection. Consider checking some out at your public library and then buying a home copy of the ones your family really falls in love with.
As our books have slowly fallen apart at the spines, had pages torn or lost, I’ve grieved a little, but then given thanks for the evidence that our books have been and are well loved. When my kids get older and start families of their own I’ll have my list of the books they love and I’ll help them build their collections for my grandbabies.
With fullness of joy,
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