Monday, May 12, 2014

Fun Read Aloud Chapter Books for Young Children

Did you know that this week is Children's Book Week? I didn't (until this morning), so it's by happy little coincidence that I'm writing this blog post (that I started working on last night). :-)

In our house, we love books! Oddly enough, we have never really developed the habit of bedtime story reading with our children until now. I have an almost seven year old, and a four-and-a-half year old (plus a toddler; who's NOT yet reading) who are both independent readers. So, aside from our school time reading together, the majority of their reading is solo. Enter chapter books! They don't yet read longer, more involved material by themselves, so it has been a wonderful way for me to bond with my big littles, and a way for me to get to read some classics that I somehow didn't get around to reading as a child. It's a win-win!

We started reading a chapter at bedtime most nights. There were times when we fell out of the habit of reading at night when dinner was served too late too many nights in a row, but for the most part, it has been a habit we've come to really look forward to.

Here is a list of the books we've covered so far this school year, and brief(ish) thoughts about what we liked (and didn't quite like) about them!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- This is one classic on this list that I actually read (and more than once at that) during my childhood. I always dreamt of visiting the chocolate factory, and this did not fail to inspire chocolatey dreams in my offspring, either. It was easy to read, because we were eager to see what happened next. Would little Charlie Bucket find a coveted Golden Ticket? Oh, the suspense! ;-) (There is some mild language in this one- but if I remember right, it's of the donkey-inspired variety).

James and the Giant Peach- We liked this one too, but the book about Charlie is still the favored of author Roald Dahl in our collective opinion. I wasn't a fan of James' aunts or the manner in which he came to live with them (parents were eaten by a rhinoceros or something). I felt that it was a tad brutal (okay, a lot of Dahl's stories include things along these lines, to be fair), but the children didn't seem to get caught up on it (probably due to the ridiculousness of being eaten by a wild animal on a city street), though I may have purposely raced past that part! (Ditto on the language- I actually don't remember what but just be warned that it's there!)

Winnie the Pooh- Oh, my! What a wonderful book. It was equally pleasing to my six year old boy and four year old girl. They of course were already familiar with the characters in the book because of the Disney movie adaptation, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but it did not fail to delight them in any way. That "silly old bear of very little brain" is even more endearing to me in print than he is on screen, and you get to see even more of the sweet and silly machinations of his fluffy brain in the book.

The House at Pooh Corner- More Pooh songs and delightful interactions between these beloved characters. It's a must-read if you like the first one (I should say if you've read the first one- of course you liked it). I love the humor and wit that AA Milne weaves through these stories. And we all loved getting to know these friends even more. Consider yourself warned, though, I teared up at the end!

Little Britches- While I really liked this story, it was definitely a challenge to get through! I think the material was a bit mature for my children, and a semi-tedious book for a four and six year old to sit through, but they still enjoyed it quite a bit despite this (I should note that it was not located in the children's section of the library- also, there are some instances of swearing in this book, but was easy enough to substitute "darn" for " !@#$%^&*" and stuff like that.) I had come across this title in a thread about chapter books somewhere on Facebook. I think it was recommended to someone who was looking for a book similar to Little House on the Prairie books, but for boys. It was definitely that, but a little later chronologically. What I really liked about it, personally, was that it kind of gave me a glimpse of what life was like for of one of my great-grandfathers. He actually lived in this area around the time set in the book (1906). Anyway, there are lots of character-building lessons in this story, but admittedly, many of them were kind of over the heads of my babies at the time. Needless to say, this one might be a good one to save for your older littles.

Pippi Longstocking- Oh, Pippi! How we loved your amusing antics. I remember watching Pippi Longstocking on television as a child, but never really read the book. She appeals so much to my unconventional side, and I really appreciate how she boldly "lives her truth". Ha. True, some probably won't appreciate the trouble she gets into, but it also can open up a dialog with your children of why certain behavior probably isn't a good idea or very realistic. Still, there were plenty of laughs while we read this book- and the children were definitely captivated by Pippi and her adventures.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle- This favorite by Beverly Cleary was fun for us to read. The children especially enjoyed the sound effects (enthusiastically provided by yours truly). Ralph is certainly a charming character, and I think we can all relate to his story! (I also appreciate some of the questions that came up because of the time period of this, "Mom, what is aspirin?" Ha ha!)

Mary Poppins- I almost didn't start reading this book to the children because of some of the mixed reviews I read. Actually, we are not quite finished with it, so hopefully we don't run into any of the negative things people have said about this. Most of them being related to Mary's attitude- they found her to be mean and nasty in some parts. Well, she's definitely not like the character in the movie version of the book, but mean and nasty? Not really (in my opinion)- especially after seeing shows like Super Nanny, it's easy to see that British nannies commonly take a no-nonsense approach (unless that's just a made-for-TV stereotype) and Mary Poppins would naturally NOT be the "Spoonful of Sugar" offering peach of a caretaker as portrayed in the Disney movie. They have many adventures, for sure, and it's really a fun read for the children and I (at least so far- I hope I don't run into any zingers in the last couple chapters!)

What are some of your favorite chapter books for kids?

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