There’s no particular season that’s better for reading aloud with your kids. In winter time, curling up in one of my kids’ beds, we can journey together through a couple chapters of a book each night, and spring days start to get a little longer, allowing even more reading time before dark. In the summer, reading aloud by the fire on a camping trip is heavenly, while fall brings with it a seasonal spookiness that encourages hushed reading time together. See, whatever time of year, reading aloud rocks!
My two younger children are 6 and 7 (almost 8, she’d have me tell you!), and we’re big fans of chapter book reading right now. I enjoy sharing beloved books with them, in a sort of “round two” with the books I read first with their older brother, as well as finding new-to-us series, too. I could go on and on about the benefits of reading books that require your children to retain details about character and plot development, but I’d be likely preaching to the choir here, right? There is no shortage of wonderfully fun, delightfully adventurous, and highly engaging series out there, so this list is simply a tiny sampling of a couple of my personal favorites that I’ve shared with my own children over the last few years. These are the first books in series that I highly recommend:
Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul Zelinsky
Okay, this series is not your average read, and it’s not particularly easy to describe, but I can assure you that it is entertaining. My daughter was young (5 or so) when she and I read it over the course of a couple weeks, and its highly imaginative premise greatly appealed to her. Centered around three toys- a stuffed buffalo, a stuffed stingray, and another toy called “Plastic” whose real form isn’t immediately revealed- the adventures are small-scale yet largely impacting on these little creatures. For parents looking for a different kind of reading experience, the three books fit the bill.
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett and illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett
An oldie, but a definite goodie. Back when I was teaching pre-kindergarten, this was the first chapter book my co-teacher and I would read aloud in the spring, and those few chapters every day before naptime were always an adventure. Yes, there are bits that will need explanation, and I have to admit to a moment or two of creative re-working of details in the story, but all that being said, this is a perfect introductory chapter book for its shorter chapters and straight-forward storytelling about a young boy’s adventure to go rescue a baby dragon. Since this was first published over 60 years ago, you might even be sharing some of your own (or your kids’ grandparents’!) childhood favorites with the three tales by Gannett.
Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Marla Frazee
I cannot emphasize strongly enough how much I absolutely adore the character of Clementine, and the six books (so far??) about her have been my kids’ favorites. One of these was the book I read aloud to my kids as we sat around our campfire last summer, and even their older brother and my husband were unable to stifle their laughter as they sat nearby. Clementine is feisty and spirited, and she is undeniably a good-intentioned child who just doesn’t always think things through before acting. If that sounds like any child you know, then you are a parent. (Ha!) If you haven’t introduced Clementine into your reading time with your children, get to a library or bookstore as soon as you can.
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
Birdsall’s three books about some “free-range” girls is touching and refreshing, set in contemporary times yet with an old-school feeling, back to a time when children had adventures without parents looking over their shoulders at every turn. The relationships between the four sisters are at the heart of all the stories, and an emphasis on the family bonds brings up great fodder for post-reading discussions. But don’t forget all the fun, too, because there are laugh out loud moments in all three books, and they are enjoyable for a wide range of ages- perfect for families with several children.
I’ve saved my personal favorite for last, and all the wonder and beauty William Joyce has ever brought to the picture book format, he’s put to use in this middle grade series, with four of the books published so far. Be prepared for a mind-blowing richness of language, which sometimes needs explanation with younger readers, but never fails to entertain and delight. Your kids may know some of the story from the film Rise of the Guardians, but here’s the story hundreds of years before, providing background and a much deeper level of story development. I am waiting with just as much excited anticipation as my children for the next adventure!
What series would you add to this list? Whatever it is that you’re reading, may you and your children keep it up and enjoy every minute.