Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Miscellany: Five Favorite Chapter Books for Kids

-- This post is originally from almost two years ago, published on my old blog.  I'm re-posting it today because I wanted to do a follow-up to it based on what I've been reading to my kids more recently.  If you weren't following me when I first published it, or if you've read something since you commented last that you'd highly recommend, I'd love to hear from you!  We're always on the prowl for good kids' books!!

Well, I guess you could say I have books on the brain this week.  Because when I was thinking about doing a Five Favorites post just had to write a post about my favorite books I read to my kids read last year. 

Please, though, if you don't have kids, keep on reading.  There are some amazing books for any age that I've listed here.

Okay... Let me back up a little first.  

A few years ago, I was feeling like I had read all the good books out there to my kids.  I'd gone through the Little House series (at least twice), the classic Winnie-the-Pooh's, the Anne books, the Ramona books, all the old, original Nancy Drew's (well, at least as many as we could take before her getting knocked on the head and dragged into the trunk of a car EVERY. FLIPPIN'. TIME. made us too crazy), The Penderwicks series, and many, many more.  

Whenever I browsed the many libraries we went to, I just about wanted to poke my eyes out after seeing the books being offered up in the "Teen/ Young Adult" section.  They were all cheap, cheesy, serials like those I read growing up and consequently felt inadequate about.  Or books about gratuitous and casual sex, drugs, murders, and super scary doomsday books, etc.  (No wonder so many of our teens are depressed! To quote Gru, from Despicable Me: "They call this literature?!?!")

Now, I'm not sitting here to preach.  I guess if that really floats your boat and doesn't emotionally or spiritually affect you at all, keep reading it!  But I'm here to tell you this, and I hope it is taken to heart: There is so much more good stuff out there to read!!!

I started reading to Jayna when she was a baby -- oh, the fond memories of reading Cat in the Hat to her at bedtime when she was thirteen months old and we had just moved to Pensacola.  (She grew up so fast!!  : :SOB!!: :)  Over time, we started reading chapter books, and pre-bedtime reading became an almost sacred time for all of us.  

Reading, in general, is a huge part of our lives.  It's what we do on long road trips, in doctors' offices and emergency rooms, and I so encourage you to do the same with your kids!  I remember reading to my kids in one doctor's office and having a little crowd of children put down their Nintendo DS's or coloring books down and coming around to listen.  And my heart nearly burst with pride the other day when Wyatt walked up to me, plopped a book in my lap and said, "READ!!"  

(Since then, he always brings me Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, and says, "READ TRUCKTH!!!")

{2015 update: he devours books now!!  There aren't enough books, or enough readers even with five other people in the house, for everything he wants to read/ hear!  I love it!}

Anyway, without further ado, I give you: Five Favorite Chapter (or "read-aloud") Books for Kids.  At least out of what we read last year.  (And this is assuming you've gone through the list I mentioned above, too.)  (And if you don't read aloud yet, start with Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary or the like... tonight!!!  It will be one of the best things you do!!)

1.  Rascal by Sterling North.
  This book is just a classic.  A very animal-friendly boy adopts (or kidnaps, it's debatable) a raccoon.  It's beautifully written, sweet, and thought-provoking.  You will not regret reading it!  

2.  My Heart Lies South by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino.
Consider this a travel or intercultural memoir that is totally appropriate for your teen/ preteen.  The downside is, you'll be hard-pressed to find one written more recently that is nearly as good.  Written over fifty years ago, it's the story of the American de Trevino's courtship and marriage to her Mexican husband.  It tells of quaint, touching, and equally hilarious customs in provincial Mexico.  I read this to preview it for Jayna's homeschool last year, and I absolutely loved it!  Then she read it and loved it just as much!  I have to admit that I didn't read this aloud, and since it addresses marriage, birth and child-rearing, and death (just a little, "circle of life" etc.), you might want to have only older children read it alone.  You may also just want to call it a grown-up book and read it with your book club if you're reading this and you don't have kids!  I'm not kidding -- it's so, so great!! An fascinating and entertaining read, and an excellent conversation starter! 

Okay, I just "discovered" Richard Peck's books last year, and I LOVED them.  We all did.  They're mostly hilarious, but don't skip over being gently meaningful (without ever being preachy).  Grandma Dowdel made us laugh so much... and also tear up a little.  If you have not read these books before, check them out.  They're wonderful!

4.  Cheaper By the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.
Okay, don't even try to tell me, "Yeah, I saw that movie."  No, no, no!!  While I'm a big Steve Martin fan, his movie of the same title destroyed this story; it bears almost no semblance to the book, and I'm not sure I can forgive him.  This book is absolutely hilarious.  We laughed until our sides hurt and huge tears rolled down our faces.  I think this is actually the one book we can all agree on being a favorite.  It is just that good.  And again, I recommend reading it even if you don't have kids.  It's written at an adult level that will definitely keep you interested!  Read it -- ASAP!!  

5.  Little Britches by Ralph Moody.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I'll say again that even if you don't have kids, you should read this book.  I had a hard time picking my fifth favorite for this post because we read a lot of great books last year, but Little Britches tells of a time when the westward expansion was dwindling -- but certainly not over.  A family moves to Colorado to a ranch with hopes of a better life and faces tough realities.  This is the only one of Moody's books that we read, but I plan to read others... because I want to know more about the story.  I know I only got my toes wet in this story -- and it's a great one.

I'm passionate about reading, and extremely passionate about what I read to my kids.  Do you have any books that you'd recommend?  If so, please comment and let me know!

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