October Read-Alouds 2014

The end of October finds us knee deep in several read-alouds we haven’t yet finished, but we did wind up a few to report on this month.

It was with some sadness that we read The Story of the Amulet, the last of the stories of the family from the Five Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet series.  In this last iteration, the four older children reunite with the Psammead and go on time-traveling adventures to find the missing half of an ancient Egyptian amulet.  The book is probably the best written of all three stories.  It is funny and adventurous and truly fabulous for reading aloud.  This series is probably one of my most favorites and I’m sad that it is now completed.  We highly, highly recommend these books, both for boys and for girls.

If you’re looking for a super fun read aloud that would work as a transition for kids who aren’t used to chapter books, or an entertaining choice for kids who like all kinds of books, we recommend The 13 Clocks.  We really enjoyed the fun use of language in this book.  There are a lot of internal rhymes in the dialogue, plus alliteration, references to other literature, and bizarre plot twists that kept us engaged.  The kids loved noticing the language choices, and also liked the illustrations.  The story is kind of a combo fairy tale/quest/mystery and features odd situations and inventive characters.

We read poetry every day, and one favorite we return to at least once a year is A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I linked to a free Kindle edition, although the one we use is a very old hardcover edition with illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith.  If you’re looking to buy a copy, I’d recommend her illustrations, and be sure you get an unabridged version!  I feel like these are some of the best poems of childhood–many will probably be familiar to you.  We’ve memorized lots of these along the way; some on purpose and some by virtue of reading them lots and lots of times.  It’s the sort of book that’s worth owning, because you’ll return to it again and again.

Another book worth owning is Franz Schubert and His Merry Friends.  All of the children really enjoyed the stories about how Schubert grew up and the fun times he had.  Although it’s not a comprehensive biography, I think for elementary kids it can be good just to know a few good and fun stories to tie to a historical figure, so as to remember him better.  Throughout the book, the authors included actual music, which you can play yourself if you have a piano, or you can get an accompanying CD.  I was delighted to see that the same authors wrote several books about other great composers, and look forward to checking those out too.

Hannah asked if she could read our copy of The Wonderful O  for her reading out loud (I have the older kids read out loud to me as a separate skill from reading individually).  While it’s a really interesting concept (a pirate forces the populace of an island to take all letter O’s out of words) and the language use is excellent–lots of internal rhyme and interesting diction–it really does not lend itself to fluid reading aloud.  Many of the sections of dialogue are full of words with the O’s removed, which is really funny and interesting when you look at it visually, but not so great to hear or try to pronounce.  After a few tries, I just let Hannah read the book by herself and then I read it so we could talk it over.  My conclusion is that the book, while short and easy to read, is probably better read by a middle schoolish child, because the themes of freedom and political dissent are probably more resonant with that age group–it’s sort of like Animal Farm in that respect.  In any case, the book is good, just maybe not one I’d recommend for elementary kids.  They could read it on some levels, but might not really interact with it on every level.

What did your family read aloud this month?


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4 thoughts on “October Read-Alouds 2014

  1. So glad you mentioned the five children series again – we will look for it as soon as we finish Harry Potter (we are on book seven). We’ve had an interesting dilemma this month due to reading aloud. Sean’s teacher encourages the kids in her second grade class to become “radiant readers.” Anyone who reads the 500 minutes per month is a r.r., but the one with the highest reading time is “the radiant reader.” Well, since we read tons together daily (5x that amount), Sean won it two months in a row. Then, one of the kids told him that he was cheating because we were including minutes when I was reading to him (I had asked the teacher if this was to be included and she had said it was). In the end, Sean felt bad that other kids weren’t getting a chance to win it, so he decided for himself that we will only count his reading minutes and he asked her to select someone else even if he tallies the most minutes. I felt bad that he had to endure the scorn of others. Reading aloud is desperately important for kids and surely played a factor in making him the fluent reader he is (he reads about 180 words per minute, with expression, according to the fluency tests in his daily homework). So thankful to you for your heads up on books we are not aware of.
    Wendy recently posted..Book Review: Why Smart Kids Worry

    1. I’m glad his teacher recognized the benefits anyway! The Read Aloud Revival podcast has had some guests talk about the research that backs up reading out loud to all ages. It shows great character that Sean stepped down on the award even though he didn’t have to–that was very gracious of him. Let me know what y’all think of the five children series when you get to it!

  2. Thanks for the recommendation of the Opal Wheeler books. Our composer of the trimester is Bach and I see she has one so I’m going to snatch that right up! I had heard of these but hadn’t heard a personal recommendation which is always nice to have before spending the money. 😉
    Johanna recently posted..Local charm in the fishing villages

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