What Might You Read With Your Kids?

Last post, I suggested you might want to take advantage of the summer evenings to read aloud with your kids outdoors. But what should you read? There are always award-winning books—The American Library Association’s Newbery and Caldecott’s being the best known of an interesting range of awards.

However, the children’s literature field is far deeper than the handful of books that receive awards each year. Another option for reading as a family might be books that are presently popular with your kids’ peers. Your child can likely tell you what these are.

Or, perhaps you might want to share some favorites from your youth. My youngest son and I had a blast with Edward Eager’s Half Magic Books, and when my daughter and I read the wedding chapter in the final book of the Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, she had to take the book out of my hands and read it to me because I was crying so!  If you can’t recall any favorites, here are some tried and true selections that I think you and your kids would enjoy.

With younger children, you might want to bring out a handful of picture books. Miss Rumphius, by Caroline Cooney is one of my favorites, but my kids faves were any Berenstain Bear book they could lay their hands on. And don’t forget nursery rhymes and poetry, particularly with preschoolers. My son loved their bumping, tumbling cascade of sound and as a result took pure pleasure in finding rhymes on his own.

If you have elementary and middle school kids, treat them to some classics from the past. Any Beverly Cleary book is great for sharing as a family, and Beezus and Ramona is out in theaters this summer, although it reverses the title to Ramona and Beezus. Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles are some of my very favorite books, but if you’re up for something a little more contemporary, any of Andrew Clements’ books make great reading, and all three of my kids (both my sons and my daughter)enjoyed Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons, Bloomability, and Chasing Redbird .

YA novels are hot even with adults this year, and you don’t have to love vampires to find something to read. There are contemporary selections, other types of fantasy, even historical fiction. Roseanne Perry’s Heart of Shepherd is a contemporary novel for ages 10 and up about a boy whose father is fighting in Iraq. Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books are perennial best-loved books. I particularly love Megan Whalen Turner’s series beginning with The Thief, which she has finally followed up with a fourth book,  A Conspiracy of Kings. I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

You don’t necessarily even have to read novels with older kids. There are great collections of short stories grouped around a wide range of topics. And, my particular love, collections of folktales from every corner of the world.

If you can’t find anything you like on your own bookshelves, check out the local library or bookstore. Maybe subscribe to Cricket, or one of the other Carus family of magazines. Then stretch out with your family on the lawn, catch that gentle evening breeze, and read. Together.

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Book Shopping with a Friend

Last week I went used book store shopping with my friend Melinda. She is new in town, and to the state, and so had not yet discovered what a great place for used book store lovers Oregon is.

We went to Second Chance Books in Independence (where I have a ton of trade in credit after recently retiring from classroom teaching) and Reader’s Guide, here in West Salem, where my Mom, from California, shares her book credit with me.

Melinda has three kids, two middle school age (a boy and a girl) and a little guy finishing second grade. She wanted to find some books for her kids, and what fun I had recommending books to her. However, I kept having to hush myself and let her look (I didn’t want to be overly enthusiastic!). But by the time I got home, my head was swimming with authors and titles, and so I thought I would recommend some to you.

For her middle school son, she picked out Kevin Crossley Holland’s The Seeing Stone. Set on the medieval English/Welsh border, young Arthur finds his life strangely aligning with that of the legendary King Arthur. (And she mentioned, he also likes World War II stories.)

For him I recommended Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, which begin with The Book of Three, a fantasy series that deals with the coming of age of Taran, a mere pig keeper  who dreams of being a hero. I also recommended Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, starting with The Lightning Thief. My middle school students loved these books.  For a good World War II story, I recommended Graham Salisbury’s Under the Blood Red Sun, a novel about a Japanese boy and his family in Hawaii at the time of the bombing of Pearl harbor.

For her middle school daughter she picked Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light, an excellent novel (I love L’Engle’s Austin family series!), and I recommended The Moon by Night, the book L’Engle wrote before Endless Light. Both books are about the Austin family, and in both the family is on summer vacation, so they are great reads for this time of year. I saw Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted and would have recommended that, however, the other two books were realistic, contemporary sort of novels and so I was not sure how her daughter would go for fairy tale based fantasy.

For her second-going-on-third grader, she bought one of Jon Scieszka’s Time Warp Trilogy books, which my college age son enjoyed when he was young. I recommended Andrew Clement’s Landry News, a story about a conflict between elementary school students and their school’s administration over a classroom newspaper started by the kids. Clements writes great school stories. Even my middle school students loved his novels, despite the fact that the main characters were a little younger than them. Frindle was his first big hit, but all Clement’s books are fun. I also recommended Beverly Cleary’s Mouse and the Motorcycle books, also very enjoyable and a pleasure to read together.

Melinda was so thrilled with her used book store finds, she has decided regular trips to the used book store with her kids is going to be part of her summer routine. For less than it takes to feed the four of them at a fast food restaurant, they can go shopping and all three kids can each pick out a book and begin building a personal library of his or her own. I’d call that a good summertime investment.