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.