We like to have a few chapter books going for our read-aloud time so that we can read a little of this and a little of that rather than just having one book for a long stretch of time (although we do that sometimes too). At 6 years old, Hannah listens very carefully and follows along with every detail, Jack is 4 1/2 and mostly listens especially when he really gets into the story, and Sarah is 3 so she listens sometimes and wanders off to play dolls sometimes. I think it’s good to expose kids to well-written language and classics, and I fully expect that they will read many of the read-alouds again later on to themselves. We do read a lot of picture books as well, as you know if you have followed A Spirited Mind for long, but in case you are looking for some good chapter books too, here are a couple of books we’ve enjoyed recently.
It may not be a classic (yet) but Lois Lowry’s Gooney Bird Greene is a super fun and subtly educational read. Gooney Bird is the new girl in school, she dresses crazy, she says she came from China on a flying carpet, and she gets all the second graders really interested in how to write a story. Although the book is about Gooney Bird’s crazy adventures, it is also about how to tell a story and how to write one. In the book the stories Gooney Bird tells are in larger print, so Hannah and I took turns and she read the big print while I read the small print. I noticed on Amazon that there is a whole series of Gooney Bird books, so I got some for Hannah’s reading practice. It’s a fun book, and not girly even though Gooney Bird is depicted in a tutu on the front cover. Jack enjoyed it too.
Kipling’s classic Just So Stories was on the reading list for Ambleside Year 1 and since we have a copy we read it in the sequence listed on AO. The stories are fables about all sorts of things like how the elephant got his trunk and things like that. They aren’t meant to be true and are told in a sing song way that I think makes that clear to children. After reading this book I noticed that Hannah started inserting “Oh Best Beloved” references in her own stories (Kipling used that for reader notes sprinkled in the Just So Stories), which makes me laugh. One cautionary note: watch out for which version you have of this book. The one we own contains the original language, some of which is offensive by modern standards so I went through and edited with a sharpie in a few spots. I know, I know, book burning and censorship and how can I live with myself, but really, I’m the mom and I don’t want my kids to say certain words and since they repeat everything they hear or read I thought it best to be proactive. You might have a different philosophy on that but I just wanted to make you aware.
Detectives in Togas is one of the best books we’ve read together this year so far. The book is a mystery set in ancient Rome, involving and solved by a group of school boys. In addition to a riveting story and surprising ending, the book contains a wealth of detail and information about ancient Rome. We learned a lot about how children were educated, how the city was laid out, what people ate and wore, how their homes worked, and much more.
Although the book is about a group of boys, the girls enjoyed the story too. I always mention things like that because so many books seem geared toward EITHER girls OR boys, and I think that’s really unfortunate. A good story and well-written characters should engage both.
Tree in the Trail, by the same author who wrote Paddle To the Sea, was on the Ambleside Online Year 2 list, and we liked it although not as much as we liked Paddle. As with Paddle, Tree in the Trail is a story that teaches geography, this time of the Santa Fe Trail. The story follows the history of the trail for 200 years from before the Native Americans had horses through wagon trains. It’s an engaging story and a good way to add to history and geography knowledge without being too textbooky. I’d recommend it if you’re studying US geography this year, or if you think your kids might be interested in the American Southwest.
The King of the Golden River is an interesting picture book/chapter book hybrid fairy tale about three brothers and what befalls them when a mysterious visitor arrives. As with all good fairy tales there are plenty of life lessons to be learned, such as the importance of hard work versus laziness, the importance of being merciful and generous rather than hard-hearted and selfish, and so forth.
I thought the vocabulary in this book was really excellent – it’s full of long and interesting words that children may not otherwise come across, and the text is so well written that the meanings are apparent or easily explained.
The version we read from the library had great illustrations by Krystyna Turska, but I couldn’t find that version on Amazon to show you. However, I noticed that the Kindle version is free right now, so if you want to use this as a read-aloud and don’t mind missing the illustrations, you might want to jump on that before they change the price!
What good chapter books have your kids been reading lately?