The Family that Reads Together: Recommended Read Alouds

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“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” - Becoming A Nation of Readers

Families reading together is one of the most splendid traditions and habits you can cultivate as a family. You may find it common to read to your little ones throughout the day, but have you considered scheduling family reading time together? I recall snuggling up around a warm fire and listening to a fun story my Papa would read to all eight of us children when I was a child. These were some of my favorite memories! When you read together:

  • You build family relationships in a unique way. You are sharing an experience of entering the world of the story teller, stirring the imagination as you enter the lives of the characters in the story.
  • You grow together as a family. You can interact together, discuss the contents of your readings, and encourage a learning environment in this way.
  • You share a fun, profitable and frugal activity. Many in our generation consider expensive family vacations as necessary to spend time together, but miss out on the day by day opportunities to invest quality time in a free activity. These are far more significant.
  • Your family strengthens reading, vocabulary and pronunciation skills. Taking turns reading aloud will also help strengthen vocabulary and pronunciation. We would do this in our morning devotions as well. Each person would read 5 verses and then make a comment. It built reading skills but also logic, speech and articulation skills. You can even encourage fun modulation and variation in your voices for varying characters which builds confidence and speech skills.
  • Your family will become better writers. Practically every individual in my family loves writing. It is well known that the more you read the better you will be able to write. Reading the classics is especially important for this.
  • Your family will become lifelong readers. Cultivating a love for reading in your childrens’ youth will last a lifetime.

If you don’t have time to take such adventures together, you need to re-evaluate your schedule. Reading together should be a regular part of the events at your home. Set aside an evening each week for family reading together. Turn off the technology gadgets around your home and snuggle up, and you will not regret it!

I wanted to share a collection of recommended books that are excellent for such times of families snuggling up together and enjoying a good book. This list is compiled because it is highly suitable for all ages.

Little Britches- a series of eight stories based upon the life of Ralph Moody. It begins with Ralph at eight years old in 1906 when his family moved from New Hampshire to a Colorado ranch. Through his eyes we experience the pleasures and perils of ranching there early in the twentieth century. Auctions and roundups, family picnics, irrigation wars, tornadoes and wind storms give authentic color to Little Britches. So do adventures, wonderfully told, that equip Ralph to take his father’s place when it becomes necessary. 

Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance & Tales of Restoration by David Mains – This three volume set is a powerful allegorical story set around the Enchanted City.  Each volume consists of twelve fantasy short stories, set in a city ruled by an evil Enchanter who has usurped the throne from the true King. They draw on the imagery of the kingdom that Jesus Christ Himself taught in His ministry. Under the influence of the evil Enchanter, the people of the Enchanted City prefer darkness to the light, and so sleep during the day and work at night. But the King is at work delivering the city and rescuing the poor and needy and bringing them to the Great Park. Great for meaningful dialog!

Freddy The Pig Series by Walter Brooks – for some fun family reading, you must check out Freddy the Pig. This series of stories follows the life and adventures of Freddy and his fellow farm animals. Freddy is a detective, explorer, and adventurer taking the animals all over the place in their explorations. These stories are hilarious and will definitely keep your family laughing together. Classic stories written from 1927-1958 includes 26 volumes. Reading level is ages 9-12, but I believe all levels will enjoy these.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder – Adventures from the life of a family living on the Prairie in early American. Delightful!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - who cannot include this wonderful allegorical series in this list? Need I say more?

Lamplighter Publishing- Lamplighter has republished classic character building stories that have stood the test of time. Many were written in the 1800′s and have powerful moral stories that are well worth reading again and again. They are all beautifully hardcover books. Two of my favorites include: Basket of Flowers & Robbers’ Cave – beautiful amazing stories your kids will be sitting on the edge of their seats especially with Robbers’ Cave. These are my all time favorite family reading materials, but are also great gifts for your children. Many of this collection is available through Vision Forum Ministries.

YWAM’s Christian Heros: Then & Now Series - an awesome inspiring series of stories on historical figures and missionaries. Each inspiring true story of a man or woman who answered God’s call is a testimony to a real-life adventure of faith and determination. I remember devouring these as a child and I believe they had a lasting impact in shaping my life with a heart for missions. These are excellent reading for all ages! These books are also available through Amazon.

I will also add that listening to books on tape/CD is a wonderful pastime for car travel as a family. We listened to many classic stories during our trips around the country and it was a great way to spend the time. Focus on the Family Radio Theater was a huge favorite for this! Les Miserables, Narnia & Anne of Green Gables were classics!

Further Resources:

Why Read Aloud? – Chapter One from Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook
The DO’S and DON’Ts of Read-Aloud – Chapter Four from Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook
Hints for Reading Out Loud – A page from Madame Esme’s Website
Reading Aloud: Tips for Parents and Teachers

What favorite titles do you recommend for family reading?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

41 Responses to The Family that Reads Together: Recommended Read Alouds

  1. Nicole Mahshie February 8, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    Have you ever read Stasi & John Elderidge’s book “Captivating” ? It’s an excellent book that I almost cry through every page because of the rich truth about our design as a woman. You should definitely check it out!

  2. Emily February 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Lindsay,
    Lindsay,

    That ebook course looks like something very helpful. You do help spread a lot of good knowledge. I don’t know how you do it, you have such a large capacity to share.
    I haven’t visited your blog since your break at the holidays. I scrolled through and was impressed at your introspection in your marriage, and at the thought from the Lord you shared about how natural living can also be an idol. Isn’t Satan so cunning? I believe he has the ability to turn so many good people to good things, that are not the best and essential things, when we become tempted to become unbalanced, or more importantly, unfocused on the best things in our Lord and his will for us.
    I love your book list. Right now my hubby is reading to my kids, the Rats of Nymnh. Sp? I love many of the books you listed, namely Little Britches and the Narnia chronicles. Little Britches is such a wonderful old fashioned book, what a great father role model! Have you read Laddie? I LOVE that book, its gotta be a favorite. I love the list of things their parents want them to learn before leaving their Christian home. My hubby and I read it together at the beginning of our marriage.
    I am totally excited to try that book about the pig, called, Freddy was it? It sounds so fun! And good, I love good old books!
    I wanted to mention insomnia, and I hope that that is going better for you. You have been a lovely example in that for me, you seem to accomplish so much, and so positively, for having such a burdensome and draining trial. I know for me that has been like one of my hugest challenges, ever. My first bout with it was when I got preggie w/ number three, I had never missed a blink of sleep my whole life, so it was a shocker! Now I am pregnant w/ number four. One night I couldn’t sleep at all till 5:00 a.m, and I wondered if it was beginning, I wanted to doubt our dear God; I had been sleeping so well lately and felt like such a better mom. Then I remembered what I had read in Christian goodness that day, written by an apostle of the Lord to lead us to Christ with the challenges we have in our day. He had taught that Lot’s wife had sinned because she did not look forward to the future with faith. When I read it, it felt like a nice tidy lesson but not something I needed, I was so happy and trusting in my life I felt. In that night, I knew the holy spirit had led me to read this to prepare me. I had to trust my God in his future for me, that if this pregnancy was going to take a turn with insomnia again, that I must trust my Good Lord. So I trusted and trusted through the night. As it so happened, the next night, I slept great, and the next, in fact it was just an abberation (sp?) not a cycle like it was before. (that talk was called The Best is yet to be by Jeffrey R. Holland)
    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=366f47a27a2b5210VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD
    I have found a nice routine hot bath each night and a time to just ponder my blessings, chased away the deadly fear that exasperated the non-sleep state. Once I went to church, I got that bit of gratitude advice from a woman there who struggled with sleep. It didn’t always chase my insomnia away, but it did give me the chance for peaceful mind. I don’t know if the Lord has more of this in store for me; I do know that I have plenty of room for growth from this challenge. In the past I did well for many nights in a row, but found I still had to grow in trust of the Lord when I felt I was done, I had learned good things and was ready for the reward of sleep. I have found so much weakness in myself and room to grow so much. I believe I’ve learned a lot, even though I have room to learn more. It is so not easy, and I wanted to let you know you have been an example to me!
    :) Sorry for the length,
    Emily Balling
    http://www.grawberriesandnuggles.hazubu.com

  3. Shana February 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm #

    I love this article! I work part time as a Reading Teacher and am always happy when families can read together. Our biggest read aloud occurs at dinner time when we read a Bible story as a whole family. I am just starting a devotional book with my 14 year old daughter and we read stories before bed time with our 7 and 4 year old. I would like to start a series with the family like Little House as my 14 year old loved that series and it would be fun to share with the younger ones too! Thanks for the great recommendations!

  4. Naomi February 4, 2010 at 5:16 am #

    I have such fond memories of my mother reading to us as kids, from Narnia and Lord of the Rings to Treasure Island. As an adult and mother now, I still enjoy my mother reading. There is a delightful poem I just read, the last stanza of which reads “You may have tangible wealth untold; Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold, Richer than I you can never be – I had a mother who read to me.” (From An Illustrated Treasury of Read-Aloud Poems for Young People, a shortened version of a book by the same name (sans illustrated) with great poetry by classic authors and delightful pictures, although two of them are rather scary for small children.)

  5. Tracie February 4, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    Thank you for this post! We recently (in the past 2 months) started having a family Bible reading time each evening. It has been a great blessing for us- my husband, our 5 year old, our two year old and myself. I also started reading The Boxcar Children to my five year old son and he is enjoying it. We read a lot and “library day” is always looked forward too!

  6. Katie February 3, 2010 at 10:20 pm #

    My mom read to my siblings and I almost every night growing up. Little Britches and the Little House books were some of my favorites! I still love reading today!

  7. Julia February 3, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    I’m a fairly new mom and have a question! Do you always have your children sitting with you and focused on the book? Or can they be playing quietly in the room while you read a classic? Is it near as benefical if they’re not totally focused on it? Similar question, is it near as benefical if the book is several steps above their reading level? Just want to use our time wisely! Thank you so much for the wealth of information and encouragment on your blog!

    • Mandi February 4, 2010 at 7:33 am #

      Julia, I’m not sure about having them sit still or letting them quietly play. With his books, my 18 month son sits with me. When I’m reading “harder” stuff he usually plays quietly. But as a children’s librarian and teacher, I will tell you read aloud is a GREAT time to expose your child to stuff they may not be able to read by themself, but can listen to and enjoy.

      • Tiffany February 4, 2010 at 2:01 pm #

        I would say keep reading as an open opportunity for your child to come over and join you. You can always ask if they want to come and sit in your lap. Your child also learns from watching you read, essentially they do what you do in order to learn about their own world. I have almost 2 year old twins and sometimes 1 is playing while the other is reading with me in my lap. Who’s to say the other isn’t listening too?

        • Janet Reynolds February 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

          For toddlers, I definitely think they should have the option of sitting with you or not. At some point in the preschool years, I think it is good training to have them sit quietly and focus, for reasonable periods of time, of course. The other advantage (besides training in focusing) to this is that, when sitting next to you, conversation about the story naturally happens, which builds vocabulary and reasoning and comprehension skills. If they are playing a few feet away, they are more likely to want to talk about their play or random things; at least this has been my experience. Out of six children, I only ever had to insist on this with one of them. I think most children will naturally get caught up the imagination of the story – the norm is that they sit there and beg for more.

  8. Manic Mom February 3, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    I just found your blog & like it a ton. My post tonight was about reading together. We homeschool & it’s one of our fav things to do. Have a great night!!

  9. Nikki Raichart February 3, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

    We spend about 30 min. a day reading aloud as a family. Some of our favorites include many of your suggested books, as well as the Christian Heros of the Faith series by YWAM. Thanks for writing about this :)

  10. Kelly February 3, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    I LOVE Tales of the Kingdom and Resistance! I’ve had those ever since I was little, but I never knew there was a third volume. Thanks so much!

  11. Abby February 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    I would also add the Swallows and Amazons series. http://www.amazon.com/Swallows-Amazons-Godine-Storyteller-Ransome/dp/087923573X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265234595&sr=8-1 My family has read aloud since before I was born (and I’m now in college) and we have read this series a couple of times.

  12. Amber February 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    I LOVED being read to as a kid. I am now 29 and live hundreds of miles from my parents, but when I visit them my father still reads aloud to me. It is a really special time. Now I read to my 2 year old all the time and she loves it too. She has an amazing attention span and vocabulary for her age – probably because we read so much.

  13. Amy blogs @ River Rock Cottage February 3, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    Amen! This should be a top priority for families (apart from family devotions). And may I be so bold as to come right out and say, “Turn off the TV”! It isn’t that it’s evil in and of itself, but rather that we let it gobble up family time like it’s a ravenous wolf!

    We love the Lamplighter books!!!

  14. Janet Reynolds February 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    In addition to the great titles others have listed (especially Pooh!): Heidi, Wisdom and the Millers, The Trumpet of the Swan, Charlotte’s Web, Twice Freed, Treasures of the Snow, Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin, Johnny Tremain, The Adventures of Pinnochio, Ten Peas in a Pod, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Shakespeare, and all of the novels published by BJU and A Beka – they are some of our favorites. Rod and Staff also has storybooks with really good lessons for little children, but the quality of the writing is poor, so I limited them. These are just a small fraction of the books we have loved over the years – oh yes, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is a hilarious read-aloud! My kids have started reading Shakespeare out loud around 6 years old, and begging for bigger parts. First I make sure the play is appropriate (not all are!), then I read the storyline aloud from Lamb’s Shakespeare, then I assign parts and away we go! When they were all little, after each storytime they would pile on my lap, giggling and pushing and asking for horsie rides on my knees. They are some of my most precious memories.

    • Sarah-Anne February 3, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

      Such great books, and wow… that’s great to hear what you’ve done with your kids and Shakespeare! I can’t wait to do the same, when mine are older :)

  15. Liz February 3, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    I would recommend The Bread Sister of Sinking Creek by Robin Moore. The author is a storyteller and the book is written as one to be read aloud. It has enough adventure and excitement for both boys & girls. It is one of my favorites of all time.

  16. Hannah February 3, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    Hi Lindsay!
    I grew up with so many of these stories. I just found your website and I am so excited to “meet” you! I come from a big, home school family and have been married 4 years in May to my wonderful, supportive and godly husband. We have an almost 2 year old daughter and a little one on the way in April. You value so many of the same things I do (natural living, healthy eating, motherhood) but most importantly, you are my sister in Christ :-) Praise the Lord! I have been devouring your articles (particularly on soaking grains, I had never heard of this!) and I’m looking forward to reading more. Thank you for your ministry in Passionate Homemaking – finding you was a blessing!

    In His Amazing Grace,
    Hannah from Oklahoma

  17. Ann February 3, 2010 at 11:39 am #

    I recommend The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. My children enjoyed both of these at about 3 and 5 yrs old.

  18. Nancy February 3, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    I could not agree more heartily, Lindsay! I wish every mother would read *Honey for a Child’s Heart* by Gladys Hunt for further inspiration on this wonderful topic.

  19. Erin February 3, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    this is so wonderful to read! we sat down to “kill some time” last night while a repair guy was here late (until one am!) and started “the little prince” two hours later, we had read the whole thing. my 12 year old and my 7 month old both fell asleep while i was reading… it was priceless time that i couldn’t have gotten back if i had watched a movie with them or put them to bed earlier! we are getting back to reading aloud. it’s been something i have been avoiding because i am “so busy”. but if i am too busy for them, what kind of homeschooler am i!?

    by the way… an excellent source of lists and ideas for reading aloud is sarah clarkson’s book “read for the heart.” i just heard her and her mom speak at the mid winter home educator’s conference here in michigan. wow!! awesome stuff!

  20. Ami February 3, 2010 at 11:12 am #

    I have to add A. A. Milne to the list of great read-alouds. My 6 year old son and I read The House at Pooh Corner this past fall. In the last chapter, when Christopher Robin grew up, it broke my heart. My son is very tender and we both sobbed over it. Later at dinner, we were trying to tell my husband about it, and we both started sobbing again. It is so sweet to have our hearts grabbed in the same way by books. I did not grow up reading great literature, so I feel that this is just another wonderful way for me to experience childhood all over again.

    • Janet Reynolds February 3, 2010 at 11:49 am #

      Yes, yes, yes! When we were at that reading stage, we lived near a park with a river winding through it. There were arched bridges perfect for Pooh sticks!!

  21. Sharon February 3, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    We love to read aloud and you listed some of our favorites!

  22. Sarah M February 3, 2010 at 10:39 am #

    Great post–It seems I can’t ever proclaim family reading enough! Although we have very small children (2 & 1) we still read the bible every night with them, then a few stories from the library every day & a few before bed.
    When they get a bit older, we will start with some of the ones you mentioned, Narnia, Little House, and I love the “Nicholas” books. (I also minored in French, so knew about them before having kids.) They are cute stories about a boy who lives in France, named Nicholas, and the longest one is roughly 5 pages, but within each book, there are about 20 stories of his adventures with friends, school life, vacations, family time, imagination, etc. They are really fun to read, and great humor, too!
    Sarah M

    • Sarah-Anne February 3, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

      Do you know of other French books for children? I don’t mean English ones translated into French, but truly French books. Also, how/where do you find them? Especially reasonably/cheaply priced?? My husband speaks French with our sons (25 mos and 2 1/2 mos) but I find it very difficult to get books for them to read together. Our library mostly has Spanish books, and any ones that I want to order have very high shipping costs… Bummer.

      We love to read in our home, too!! Indeed, you listed some of our favorites, too :)

  23. wifeandmom February 3, 2010 at 8:25 am #

    Reading is our homeschooling style. It is the majority of our learning. Every week we go to the library and pick up loads (and I do mean loads) of books to bring home. We pile up in what we call “the big chair” and read for long stints every day especially before nap and bedtime. I read to our 6 month old but her attention span is obviously a little short. However, my 2 and 4 year old have remarable attention spans and can sit and listen intently for as long as I will read to them! I love hearing them go back over a book themselves and repeat the majority of it’s theme verbatim! Reading is a bonding activity for our family and the learning from it is so sweet!

  24. Jennifer Ott February 3, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    We love the “Jungle Doctor” series; 16 of the books have been republished and are easy to find now! My kids (5, 3, and 2) all love them…well, the 2-year-old sits there anyway. I honestly think we read them for me! Thankfully the kids think we are reading them for all of us. The are adventurous, and have a great Biblical theme. I like how each chapter has a lesson while still not resolving the overall plot in the book. The author is Paul White, by the way.

  25. Elisabeth February 3, 2010 at 7:12 am #

    We haven’t started reading aloud as a family yet, but when I was growing up my parents would take turns reading the trailblazer books and different classics like ‘The Railway Children’ to us. I have so many great memories of just hanging out as a family reading.
    Great post!

  26. pidge February 3, 2010 at 7:03 am #

    Great post. I remember my dad reading out loud to us … which only started AFTER we got rid of our TV. Those were good times. It was nothing too “deep” Lord of the Rings and Little House on the Prairie collection. But it was good family time.

    What made a HUGE impact on me, as a young woman, was listening to my mom read to us as part of our homeschool schedule. My middle sister and I still talk about the devotional/study books she would read to us. It was a lot less intimidating for my mom than just reading straight out of the Bible, but it instilled in me the importance of Bible study. And now that I mentor young women I find myself recalling those devotional books more and more. Thanks for the great reminder!

  27. Lauren February 3, 2010 at 6:45 am #

    I read several of these books as a child with my family. And my love of reading still continues. I have a quick question…How old was Karis when you started preschool work with her?? My little girl is 16 months and I would really like to begin “learning” with her soon.

    • Janet Reynolds February 3, 2010 at 11:46 am #

      My opinion: From infancy up to at least 5 years old – there are innumerable fun learning activities to do together, and as long as she is having fun, she’s not too young! As long as she is having fun, she is learning. All my six children learned to read this way – just by having fun together. When it stops being fun, do something different. Around 5 1/2 or 6 years old, I begin requiring some schoolwork whether they want to or not. At some point, learning the next step requires more effort than our lazy brains want to give! But usually, it just takes some encouragement to get them to believe that they really CAN do that next step!

      • crystin February 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

        That is so true- the best way my 3.5 year old has been learning is through interaction and fun. We would draw together very early on and I would draw letters and numbers and he’d ask for more. He quickly learned the alphabet and 1-10. Same with colors and shapes; he loved drawing and having me draw shapes. Repetition while interacting is how children learn. He would have me go over it so many times and he memorized even more difficult shapes like oval and hexagon when he was 2. (I’m not bragging, I think other kids do this as well ;) ) This is how he learns more difficult songs now as well. He’ll have me sing them over and over and a couple days later I’ll hear him singing something with multiple verses and difficult words and if he messes up he stops and says, “What was it mommy” So, just naturally interact with your young ones and they will learn so much and begin asking to learn more ;) Hope that helps

        • Janet Reynolds February 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

          Crystin, I remember realizing that, when my kids asked for the same book over and over and over… they were actually “studying” that book. That is so cute with your boy singing!

  28. Paula February 3, 2010 at 5:53 am #

    I just recently blogged about this. We just finished reading “Henry and Beezus” by Beverly Cleary, I love all her books. Currently we are reading “Mrs. Piggle Wiggle” by Betty MacDonald.

  29. Ruthie February 3, 2010 at 5:32 am #

    I miss those days with our daughter. We went through the chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit…..along with LOTS of others. Our daughter is a literature major now lol

  30. Kate E. February 3, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    I am so excited that you included the ‘Little Britches’ series! My mom and grandma read those to my sister and I when we were little and they are such wonderful stories. I went back and re-read most of them as an adult and still loved them.

  31. Cath February 3, 2010 at 5:13 am #

    We read together as a family and get so much enjoyment out of it. Even my youngest (22months this week) loves to get a book and just sit and wait on the sofa for someone to come a read to him!

    We are also enjoying some family sewing time at the moment. My oldest (8) is enjoying trying English piecing for the first time and Caleb six is sewing with Binca a table mat for Nana for Mothers day. I always have a list of projects on the go. I secretly pray for wet Sunday afternoons so we can sit and sew and enjoy this time together. Jared the baby even practices with his threading buttons!

    Cath

  32. Monica February 3, 2010 at 4:30 am #

    My children are 11, 13, and 18. They always enjoyed it when I would read to them. In fact I have only just stopped. We would gather in the family room with our blankets and cuddle up for a few chapters each evening. Great time together and great memories.