Sunday, March 01, 2015

favorite read-aloud books from 2014


IMG_5412 I think my favorite part of motherhood is reading out loud to my kids.  I still remember the day I read a real story (with a real plot instead of those baby books where you just point out pictures) to Hazel. The book was “The Happy Lion.”  The storyline was sweet and engaging for both of us and that instant we were both hooked.  I had bought Jim Trelease’s book “The Read Aloud Handbook” when I was still pregnant with Hazel and anticipated all of the great adventures I was going to take my kids on through reading aloud.  I remember LOVING the books my mom read aloud to me.  I wasn’t too big of a reader myself as a kid, so those adventures and emotions she took me on through those books really imprinted on my soul. 

I’ve found reading to my kids even greater than all the hype I had built up over the years.  I’m not really a playful mom….it’s hard for me to get down on the floor and play blocks or to imagine up a game for too long.  But I could read to them for hours.  It’s an awesome way to combine something I love with something that really engages my kids.  I think I’ve always read books that were a little beyond my kids in my rush to get to the books that I’m excited to share or discover with them.  And I think that’s been ok.  Our reading adventures started with just Hazel and Charlie, but this past year all four of them would be  in Em and Peter’s bedroom to listen.  The rule is that they all have to be still in their beds or on their spots while I read.  Of course Peter is almost always breaking that rule…climbing around the room or playing with his cars but he is quiet and doesn't seem to distract the other kids.  I’m sure he’s not getting much from the stories, but filling up his brain with all those words can’t be bad.  I like the room nice and dark so we either just have Christmas lights or read on the kindle with the room totally dark.  I like to think that the darkness helps them focus in on the words I’m reading and make pictures in their little brains. 

We also love to listen to audio books while in the car.  And Emmeline’s favorite quiet time activity is listening to the Ramona books (greatest reader ever).

Here are my favorite things about reading out loud to my kids:

- It motivates EVERYONE to move through the bedtime routine quickly.  I dread the bedtime routine.  But when we get our acts together early enough and we’re into a real page tuner we all rush through teeth and pjs and tidying our rooms and settle into that dark room quickly so that we can see what happens next.   

- It gives us such great things to talk about.  I’ve found that the very best way to teach anything to kids is through stories.  Since I’m not that great at coming up with my own stories (like Jeff is) I find stories from great books light up our minds and give us a shared experience to learn from together.  We’ve had so many engaged and profound chats after reading.  The stories seem to speak so much louder than any lecture or lesson i could give them.

- It calms everyone down and calms our minds.  My favorite thing is when the littlest of the bunch falls asleep while I’m reading.  Isn’t that a pleasant way to fall asleep?

- It gets me through books that I’ve been wanting to read or reread and that brings me lots of joy….both in reading and in anticipating the reading.

- It helps me to feel connected with my kids in a way that just hanging out with them, or watching a movie, or nagging them to move through the day doesn't. 

- It teaches us things, all of us.  We’ve learned so much about other people’s experiences, about far away countries, about history and overcoming obstacles. 

- It fosters a love of learning and books in my children.  I read them books that they wouldn’t choose to read for themselves.  I’m on the search for books that evoke empathy, have strong moral lessons and conflicts and are written well.  I think these are the books that hook children into the vast, deep and wonderful world of literature. 

By no means am I the most fantastic read aloud mother who ever lived.  There are often whole weeks where I don’t read any chapter books to them.  At the most we read three times a week. I dream of doing it every night, but life is just too packed for that.  And i think doing it everyday might make it loose it’s luster.

The trick is to have a pile of books waiting to be read.  When I do I find it so much easier to be more consistent with it. 

So, here are some of our favorites from 2014.  There are a few I couldn’t find to take a photo of, but I’ll include them anyway. 

We loved this book.  I read it just with Charlie and Hazel and it gave us so much to think about.  Did you know it’s part of a 4 part series?  My and Hazel read all of them on our own.  They are fascinating, bring up so much to talk about, and if you want a post-apocalyptic story they are SOOOO much better for kids than the Hunger Games.  We have a rule that you have to read the book before you can see the movie.  It was so fun to sit with my big kids and watch the movie when it came out a few months ago.  Such beautiful scenes in that movie. 

We just finished Heidi a few weeks ago and it was one of my favorite all time books I’ve read with my children.  Full of good inspiring characters and so many life lessons to talk about.  Made us want to save up money to go to Switzerland.  It’s all about how nature heals you and how beautiful it is to recognize God’s plan for your life.  I fell in love with Little Heidi and her grandfather.  And Peter sure perked up every time the goat herder Peter popped up in the story.  This book engaged everyone, and I think it was Emmeline’s favorite ever.

We’ve been slowly making our way through this book.  It is non fiction, about ancient history.  I’d think that would be a recipe for disaster with my kids, but somehow Bauer makes history gripping to kids.  They get so excited when I tell them we’re going to read this book.  Even Emmeline is digesting information from it, I heard her explaining to a friend the other day the geography of upper and lower Egypt.  And I am loving trying to piece back together little snippets of history that I remember to make a more complete picture in my brain.  This has even inspired us to make a new timeline like the one we made (and lost :() in England.

If you haven’t yet discovered Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, please go and buy the box set now. It is a delightful read.  It’s really geared more to Peter and Emmeline, but my big kids always trickled in when they heard me reading it.  We read through a few of them in 2014.  Each chapter is about a different naughty thing that a child does and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s cures that she helps the mothers administer.  They are whimsical and funny and really get the kids to see naughty behaviors from a different perspective.  It’s not only full of funny stories, but great parenting tactics. 

We finished the Chronicles of Narnia.  We loved all of them, such a great combination of adventure and life lessons.  I think the Last Battle might have been my favorite.  Such an interesting commentary on the world right now and religion and finding truth.  I want to re-read the last few chapters, they were deep and full of such beautiful imagery.  I’m amazing at how well Lewis captures kids minds while discussing such deep and profound things. 

We loved Holes.  I think the kids pondered it a lot in-between readings.  It left us with so much to discuss.  And we loved watching the movie after we were done reading. 

On Audible we bought the whole Ramona series.  All the kids love to listen to the adventures of this quirky girl, but I think Emmeline loves it best . I think it helps her feel normal since she’s a lot like little Ramona.  It’s laugh out loud funny, and the narrator (Stockard Channing – Rizzo in the movie Greece) is awesome.  I love the way she reads. 

I haven’t read even one chapter of this, but Hazel has read it to Emmeline lots and they love it.  I need to sit down and see what all the fuss is about!

We read this one and Little House on the Prairie.  I love love love these books, can’t wait to read more.  I keep trying to get my big kids to read them on their own and they won’t, but they love to hear me read them.  The stories are simple yet gripping.  Well written but still easy for a little one to understand.  They’ve filled us up with wonder as we’ve pondered what life was like long ago, how hard working people were, how happy they were with so little.  I love Laura Ingalls.  And now we’re totally hooked on the TV series. You can buy the whole first season on Amazon on demand for $15 and with all this snow we’ve been binge watching them.  I’ve cried in every episode so far.  It’s giving us all so much to talk about, so many great life lessons from the Ingalls family.

We read this early on in the year and loved it.  It went over Emmeline and Peter’s heads but the big kids still think and talk about it.  It’s about a boy with a deformed face and his challenges as he goes to school.  It spurred so many great discussions about kindness and empathy and has some great characters to learn from.  Hazel and my mom read a follow up book called Julian’s chapter which tells the story of the mean boy Julian.  They loved learning to have empathy even for the bully.  I need to read that one.

I’ve been wanting to read this one forever and we finally got to it over the Christmas break.  Another great one to help kids learn to have compassion on those who are different. 

We listened to this one in the car on a road trip.  It was gripping.  I loved listening to it too, the accent of the reader made the story feel just like it should. 

Some other favorites over the years include:

  • all of Roald Dahl.  That guy is a genius. His stuff is so funny and so great to read aloud.  So many great things to discuss.  I think my favorite is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda.  I love those two characters.  Of course the movies are great, but the books take the cake.  I think those were the first chapter books I ever read aloud to the kids….they hooked us into discovering stories together.  
  • Charlottes Web: sort of a book you just have to read to your kids at some point.  Love it.
  • The Little Princess: I think it’s my all time favorite book I’ve ever read to my kids.
  • The Secret Garden:  we liked this too, but not as much as the little princess.
  • Ida B.  Fantastic book for girls.  Get the audio book, it’s read so well.  I think Hazel has listened to it 20 times.
  • Hatchet :  My kids love survival stories.  Better for bigger kids.
  • Pippi Long Stocking: So funny and quirky, one of Emmeline’s favorites
  • The Tale of Despereaux:  I love this one as a read aloud, I love how the author talks to the reader.  Really helps you know when it’s time to stop and talk about some lesson that the story is teaching. 
  • My Father’s Dragon: great for little kids just ready for chapter (no picture) books. 
  • Jonny Truman: we read this too early (like three or four years ago) in our quest to learn about the Revolution.  I think it was beyond my kids, but such a good book….live and learn. 
  • Mixed up files of Basil E Frankweiler,  A Wrinkle in Time, Because of Winn Dixie, The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • Some of our favorite road trip audio books: The Graveyard Book (kind of scary for littler kids), Harry Potter (such a great narrator), All of a Kind Family (seriously, these stories are precious! I love books that are simple but still reel in the big kids), Series of Unfortunate Events
  • For a while Jeff had a book he would read when he was putting the kids to bed and I had one I would read.  Things have gotten too crazy for that lately, so now he just tells “Froggie” stories about Brutus the Super frog.  But some that he has read with them that they really enjoyed are: The Hobbit, The Book of Three, The Great Wave….
  • that’s all I can think of right now. 

Anyway, I would love some recommendations for great read alouds.  Like I said, it makes it so much easier to keep going if I have a stack of books that we’re all excited about.  So please, let me know what your favorite books are that you’ve read to your kids, or that you’ve read as a kid. 

Happy Reading!!!



  1. I have 6 children 12 1/2 years apart. I loved so much reading aloud to my children The youngest is 12 now and was the one to make me stop the quickest. My oldest sons would listen in high school, but the baby wanted to read herself.

  2. Truly my best memories of motherhood. I love to reminisce looking through our extensive collection of books. My biggest regret is not having pictures of us reading together. I have the Read Aloud Handbook as well, having purchased it as an Elementary Ed major. You made me realize that would be the best baby shower gift for a new mother! Such wonderful memories.

    1. Thank you for this comment. What a great idea to have someone take a picture! Please share some of your favorites!

  3. Thanks for this list! We are going to the library today for new books!

  4. I have been at our house and I DO think that you are the best read-aloud mother who ever lived! This is awesome!

  5. This is so inspiring! My daughter (7) and I just started reading books together, and we both love it. We started with tales of a fourth grade nothing. Simple read and anyone with siblings will get a crack out of fudge. Definitely saving your list. Thank you!

  6. I can so relate to this post! I am also a mother who has a hard time make-believing and playing on my kids' level for too long, so reading is such a great way to connect. My husband and I love reading aloud at bedtime too. Some of our favorites are ones you've already mentioned in this post and I'm excited to read some from your list that we haven't read yet. Others on our list are: My Side of the Mountain, Little Britches, and Big Red (my husband really liked reading those ones), The Moffat Books and Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes, Peter and the Star Catchers, and an audiobook we loved was All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. Books that I still want to read: Anne of Green Gables, The Hiding Place by TenBoom, The Education of Little Tree, and Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter.

  7. Awesome post! We're reading Wonder out loud now. I read it on my own early last year and LOVED it.

    Do you mind listing the ages of your kids? You say "this is good for my older kids" etc but I'm not sure what age that is. I find the suggested reading levels very helpful for independent reading but sometimes it's hard to know what book is a good match for a certain age for read alouds.

    I highly recommend the award wining The Crossover as a great one to share with school aged kids. Especially great for sports fans.

    Ya for family reading!

  8. Thanks for this, Saydi! I'm glad you're a few years ahead of me on this parenting ride, so I can poach from you. :)

  9. I know I've never even met you, but I couldn't resist jumping in on a book conversation (I found your blog through power of moms/your sister saren).

    My oldest boys are in 4th and 5th grade and right now we are reading "maniac Magee". They love it. We have enjoyed many of the ones you mentioned. From the top of my head, some other favorites are "chickens in the headlights" and "frindle".

    Happy reading!

  10. I have been folowing yiur blog for awhile now - found you thru your sisters. I love your perspective on Motherhood. Thank you for being a great example to me.
    Read "Farmer Boy" - part of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but it is the story of her husband Almanzo growing up on a large farm in upperstate New York. It was my favorite as a kid, and my kids loved all the descriptions. I loved them seeing how hard children used to work to help sustain a family.
    We also loved "Homer Price". Made us laugh out loud. I think we even read it twice!
    Thank you for reminding me how much I love to read to my children. I think we will start a new book tonight!

  11. I feel the same way about reading to my kids as you, it is awesome. My husband did not grow up in a reading family and he has even been sucked into the bedtime reading thing. He asked a few months ago if he could do the reading, and it has been so fun. Our kids are 1-7 in age and some of the ones we have LOVED of late (other than the fantastic ones you mentioned) are 1) Summer of the Monkeys (so many beautiful lessons at the end) 2) Sign of the Beaver 3) The Moffats (I have only read the first one but I think it is part of a series?) 3) The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew (also a series but the first book is the best) 4) The Saturdays (also a series) 5) Understood Betsy and 6) Sarah Plain and Tall.

  12. One more thing, you probably know this but "The Story of the World" is available in CD's narrated by Jim Weiss...and they are awesome. We listen to them in the car and you have never heard a car full of five babies under seven so quiet. :) Also, I saw someone mentioned Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter in their comment and I have to second that it is a fantastic book. I think I was 14 when I read it the first time though so not sure what age I would suggest (although I perhaps love it more now as a mother as the mother in that book is fantastic). Porter's books are hard to find because they are often out of print but I highly recommend "Freckles" and "Keeper of the Bees" (my favorite) and "The Harvester".

  13. I love read-aloud recommendations and The Read-Handbook is one of my go-to sources. I'd highly recommend The Read-Aloud Revival podcast at I've listened to almost all of the podcasts(20 and counting)and loved them. I also find lots of ideas at the Well-Trained Mind forums.

    A few of our favorites for younger listeners included the Fudge series by Judy Blume and Indian in the Cupboard series by Banks. When our boys were older they loved Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham and the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody. Happy reading!

  14. Love love love this list and I have to agree with mom, you ARE the best read-aloud mother I've ever met. I love all your suggestions.

  15. Thank you all so much for your ideas and input! Yeah! Can't wait to make a big stake of these, ready to dive into.

    For those who asked, my big kids are 10 and 9 and little ones are 6 and 4. Great question, sorry for not including ages.

  16. I just love this post! Reading aloud to my children is one of my favorite things to do with them (I think being outside in nature with them is my other favorite thing.) :) You've got a great list here and I've added several of these titles to my list I keep in a little notebook in my purse. I loved the comment about having someone take a picture. My husband snapped a beautiful picture of us reading recently and I'm so happy to have it. (Picture Here:

    We loved Story of the World {Ancient} as well and will be moving on the volume 2 soon. I started Wonder with my kids last month and ended up just reading it to myself. I found I was editing it too much and decided to wait till they are older. (My kids are 8 and under.)

    Here are some titles I recommend:
    --Caddie Woodlawn (My #1 pick I've ever read to my kids)
    --21 Balloons
    --Island of the Blue Dolphins (considered one of the best 10 books written in children's literature for over 200 years)
    --The Usborne Book of Greek Myths
    --Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House author). We read both volumes along with Story of the World.
    --Farmer Boy
    --Indian in the Cupboard (I had to edit a few words though.)
    --Stuart Little
    --A Christmas Carol
    --Seedfolks (I thought of this one after reading your recent post about waiting for the thaw of winter. It's a short one about a community garden.)

    Thanks again so much for this list! I love to see intentional parenting and it inspires me to do better.

  17. Love your list. We read many of the same books this year, too. I still remember my 3rd grade teacher reading Mrs. Piggle Wiggle my class. Probably one of the reasons I still have fond memories of that teacher.
    Some of our favorites are:
    Pollyanna - she has such a positive perspective,
    Roald Dahl : Boy Tales of Childhood - one of my favorite books ever,
    May B.-
    The One and Only Ivan
    I can't wait to check out Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook. If you have a goodreads account I'd love to follow you.

  18. I love to read but I have a tough time feeling like I am boring my kids when so read aloud. I did find that my youngest looked forward to Wonder even though I worried he was too young for it, but it really sparked good conversation. My middle son will listen in as well. But I find that my youngest (8) enjoys picture book more - he prefers I read a stack of those vs chapter book. I enjoyed reading The Adventures of Edward Tulane to my daughter years ago. I loved the Misty of Chincoteague books when I was younger but have gotten mixed review with my kids.



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