Why I still read aloud to my children
Its been 1.5 years since I wrote my last blog about reading aloud to children, even older children. My kids are now 11,9 & 7 and I thought I’d give an update on what we’re doing now. Well, I’m still reading to my three most nights and the simple reason for that is because they still let me.
This is precious time for us to come together and while it’s impossible for me to guarantee I can always please all three of my children with their different tastes, ages and genders, it doesn’t really matter. My 11 year old girl, for example, wasn’t hugely enamoured by Stig of the Dump, the classic book written in 1963 by Clive King about the antics of a curious young boy named Barney and his caveman friend, Stig. Barney is an eight year old boy and I chose this story entirely with my son in mind. (He LOVED it.) Likewise, I am currently reading Escape from Mr Limoncello’s Library which I hoped my eldest would be keen on with its puzzle solving and bookish references throughout.
Something that has changed slightly over the past year and a half is HOW I choose the stories I read to my children. My selections were rather random back then, something that had caught my eye, or perhaps a favourite read from my own childhood. That’s absolutely fine, for of course there are no right and wrongs when it comes to reading stories. However, I have discovered a couple of elements that have helped to inform my choices and keep all my children more or less happy:
☆ Firstly, I keep one of my children specifically in mind when making my next choice. There was the aforementioned Stig of the Dump, Escape from Mr Limoncello’s Library and, for my adventurous middle child, two fabulous books by talented author Katherine Rundell, Rooftoppers and The Explorer.
☆ I really want my children to hear a wide range of books and styles, so I try to read both modern, contemporary children’s literature as well as some older, classic stories. An example of a contemporary book that has been a great hit (particularly for enhancing empathy) was Wonder by RJ Palacio. My middle child was so moved by it that she went on to read all of Palacio’s other available books. Told through multiple perspectives, Wonder sensitively charts the journey of August and how he and others around him deal with being physically ‘different.’
As for an older classic I read my kids: Little Women written by LM Alcott in 1868. There were parts of this book we all loved and other parts we were less sure about, particularly the character of the mother whom we all found rather annoying at times. Regardless, I’m glad we persevered with it and the discussions around settings in different periods and ‘old-fashioned’ language are always really interesting. Other classics I’m keen to read the children in the next year are Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham, The Box of Delights by John Masefield and Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt, a book published in 1962 but finally translated from Dutch in 2014.
I really don’t think it’s ever too late to start reading stories to our children. Humans are hard-wired for story; it is in our DNA. I’ll never forget the words of a man I met many years ago, with whom I shared my inability to sleep at night. He looked me straight in the eye and said, without the slightest cynicism, ‘Get your beloved to read to you.’
If you’d like to start or continue reading to your older children, I’d highly recommend a children’s book blog I regularly read, Playing by the Book. The writer of this book, Zoe Toft, not only reviews reading material for children of all ages, but also often suggests engaging and inspiring book-related activities. She has built up her blog over years, so has a huge back catalogue of posts and her passion for children’s literature is palpable.
This time with my children won’t last for ever. A day will arrive when one or the other of them will stand up when I open the book and sidle off, perhaps never to return to our nightly sessions. That’s alright, but until that happens, I will keep sharing stories with my beloveds.
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed reading this blog post, complement it with my first reflection on why reading aloud to older children is such a gift; two books my daughters INSISTED I read and find out about the nine year old who read one hundred books in a year.
Lovely to read about how you choose books. We’re still reading to our kids here too – my eldest is now 13 but it’s an important part of our way of connecting. She sits and doodles or makes something in one corner of the room whilst I or my husband read to her and her 9 year old sister and it makes it easy for us all to be together and share something lovely (which is getting a bit harder with a teenager who is doing all those things teenagers are known for).
That is so lovely Zoe. Have you btw read The Letter for the King (also, given your Dutch connection…) If so, would love to know what you think of it X