Longer Read Alouds for Littles

I was making a list of suggestions for easy, engaging chapter books for our teachers at preschool to read aloud to friends ages 4-5, so I included it here for everyone. Good bedtime or dinnertime reading!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments what you would add to the list. Were any of these favorites as a child? Or as an adult?

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Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book, Howard R. Garis

My kids have loved reading these for bedtime stories. They never let me stop at just one, though, so be warned. Uncle Wiggily tales date back to 1910, so occasionally you’ll encounter some outdated language or social constructs (for example, Wiggily’s muskrat lady housekeeper does a lot for him that he should probably figure out for himself 🙄), but these stories are a true joy.


Mercy Watson Series, Kate DiCamillo

How can anyone not love a book with the subtitle, Adventures of a Porcine Wonder? That’s all I have to say about this one.

When it comes to Kate DiCamillo, so many of her others are wonderful read aloud too, especially The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux.


Here’s a Penny, Carolyn Haywood

This one was a really fun surprise for me in our Kindergarten homeschool year. I learned about it from Sonlight’s book list. It has a really sweet treatment of a subject that is near and dear to our family’s heart (I won’t give anything away).


Capyboppy, Bill Peet

Here’s another one I learned about through Sonlight and we really enjoyed. I admit I didn’t know what a capybara was before I read this book.


Anna Hibiscus (series), Atinuke

This series is wonderful, and especially so because it takes place in Africa. They are short books and there are lots of them! We picked them up at our local library.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

I’ve been a fan of Roald Dahl’s writing since I was about seven, and I even wrote him a gushing letter telling him so (I never heard back, sadly). One of my greatest reading joys in life has been re-reading these as an adult with my kids. We just finished The BFG as a family (at dinnertime!) and Mark and I really enjoyed all of the humor I’m sure I missed as a child. Worth reading and re-reading ALL of his books, even if it’s just for you! We have this collection and are slowly making our way through them.


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (trilogy), Grace Lin

Grace Lin is one of our favorite Chinese authors. We love everything she does. Her picture books for younger ones are wonderful (like Dim Sum for Everyone and Bringing in the New Year ), and this fantasy trilogy is great for all ages.


Milly Molly Mandy, Joyce Lankester Brisley

Another very oldie but goodie. Sweet stories for bedtime or anytime.


James Herriott’s Treasury for Children

This one is really more like a picture book of stories, but I cannot leave it out. We absolutely LOVED reading this at bedtime. Lovely tales from Herriot’s own experiences as a vet in England, beautiful illustrations.

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The Complete Brambly Hedge, Jill Barklem

This one has wonderful illustrations and makes for sweet reading, particularly with the younger crowd (4 and under) who enjoyed Peter Rabbit.


The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White

This is what we’re reading now. Even though I’ve read Charlotte’s Web a bunch of times   (as a kid and with my kids), I never read this one until just now. It’s wonderful. A little much for my 3 year old but 5 and 7 are really enjoying it read aloud at dinnertime or before bed.

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There are so many more! I left out some of the classics like Winnie the Pooh, Mr Popper’s Penguins, and Homer Price (and everything by Robert McCloskey), and many more.

What are your favorite longer books for the 4-5 age group?

Every Day Art

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Yesterday we spent the morning at the Frist Art Museum here in Nashville. I just love how they put kids at the center of it all. Under 18 is free of course. And, the hands-on activity center, Martin ArtQuest, on the second level is so much fun for kids of all ages. Mark and I had a blast coming up with our own creations while the boys worked on theirs.

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Art, music, poetry, drama – in our little scuola these are all part of our “core curriculum.” We do something from the arts everyday, and most days several things. For example, after visiting the art museum, our Nature/science study for the day involved leaves and listening to Vivaldi’s “Autumn (more about loving Vivaldi coming up).

We did, eventually, get in some math, handwriting and reading, but we started and ended with art. Every day art!

Here’s our little space in the garage where the kids can get to their stuff whenever they want to (not that it doesn’t all spill out into the house as well, but we often start here).

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Some days it looks more like this (or often worse):

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It’s been well-used. I love it because the kids can help themselves to their own supplies and work on projects without needing much from us. But, we do have to re-organize and clean it out together every now and then to keep it usable.

Here are just a few of our favorite art books/resources we’ve loved over the past few years:

Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories: A Children’s History of Art, by Michael Bird
The Art Book for Children
Lift the Flap Art Book
Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting

…and LOVE these Mini Masters board books

Any art postcards we can get our hands on, like these gorgeous ones from The Met.
And these Picture Study Portfolios from Simply Charlotte Mason

MATISSE!
The Iridescence of Birds, by Patricia Maclachlan
Matisse’s Garden, by Samantha Friedman

And plenty of FRIDA, of course.
Favorite Frida bio
One of my favorite Frida books
Frida postcards

(aargh, there are just TOO many great ones…will be following up in another post!)

Even though it’s always fun to have new supplies and books when we can, they definitely are not necessary. One of my kids’ favorite art projects from this year was mixing soot from the fireplace with water and drawing on the walls outside like cavemen.

Just a little room for imagination is all we need.

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Native American Heritage

This is an area of children’s literature that’s very near and dear to my ❤️. I love encountering great books on Native American history and culture.

Here are some we’ve been enjoying recently:

For the youngest crowd:

Ten Little Rabbits, by Virginia Grossman. A sweet and simple board book that I love. Beautiful illustrations.

Thanks to the Animals, by Allen Sockabasin. Award-winning book by a Passamaquoddy author.

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More for Ages 5-8

The Very First Americans, by Cara Ashrose. Simple overview of various groups of indigenous peoples in North America.

I am Sacagawea, by Brad Meltzer. Maybe one of my favorite people to read about ever 🙂 I am a huge Sacagawea fan.

Fry Bread, by Kevin Noble Maillard. This one just came out this year. It has a simple but very powerful message. May lead to some conversations…and to baking fry bread.

Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back, by Joseph Bruchac. As the author notes in the afterward, the Potawatomi people alone had three different names/stories just for the February moon! This book is a collection of different moon stories from various Native American peoples.

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For the older crowd:

Native American History for Kids, by Karen Bush Gibson an An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. These are both packed with historical information and insight, with maps and illustrations.

The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich. Quite possibly my favorite book (for adults or children) that I have read all year. We always hear that books help us (and our kids) develop empathy, and this book is the perfect example of that. This story of the Ojibwa tribe encountering white people for the first time has changed forever the way I see and feel Native American history.

I hope you’ll enjoy some of these, and that they’ll lead to wonderful conversations, nature walks, lots of animal watching, but most of all an even deeper appreciation of Native American history and culture.

Check out more video resources and teacher content for Native American Heritage Month here.

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Mondays

Mondays. It’s always been a little hard to get back into the swing of things after a weekend. Now with homeschool I’ve found that’s just as true and maybe more so! No one is really pumped to jump right into math and handwriting first thing Monday morning when they’ve been running free in the same environment all weekend.

So…we just stopped doing Monday mornings. At least we don’t do typical “school.” My new rule is we have to start Mondays with something unexpected, something fun and adventurous. And I don’t tell them what it is until we get there.

Maybe it’s a field trip to the zoo, a hike, a creative game we make up. Today it was a walk in our neighborhood to see a specific tree.

This one:

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I thought the boys would find this gorgeous tree fungus fun. And they did! We didn’t touch it, we just looked at it. And then we tried to draw it.

This led us to more discussions which I foraged for on Google….

  • what are the differences between mosses, lichens, and tree fungi?
  • why does moss commonly grow on the north side of trees in the Northern hemisphere (but the south side in the Southern!)?
  • and of course…can we eat it?

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Every time we have a nature walk I am always amazed at how much more flows from it. And, now that we’ve done away with Monday mornings as we knew them, it’s created the perfect space for more of this.

 

Wild + Free

I recently attended my first Wild + Free conference in Franklin, TN, and it was such a joy to be encouraged by veteran moms and surrounded by moms on all parts of the journey that is home education.

My take homes?

1. I’m an even bigger fan of Charlotte Mason than ever. I always loved her, but when I found out how many other lovers of CM there are out there, I was boosted even more. Inspired by the conference and speakers like Cindy Rollins and Leah Boden, I dusted off my copy of For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School and started re-reading it. Again. It’s just so good.

To be reminded, when I feel like comparing, that each child works at their own speed and their own inherent abilities. To be reminded, when I feel like play must be a waste of time (when there are so many things on our list to get done!), that play is integral to what it means to be a human being.

To be reminded that it’s ok if I have a book problem…it’s good for my kids’ minds 🙂

Speaking of book problems, I sat next to a mom at W+F who told me about a podcast called The Literary Life (co-hosted by Cindy Rollins). I’ve only heard two episodes so far, but it’s wonderful.

2. I loved all of Julie Bogart‘s talk, but one particularly powerful realization for me was when she described how to help a child who’s stuck. She encouraged us to “get curious about what stands in the way” (as opposed to trying to power through or manipulate) and then “provide the corresponding support to the presenting need.” I could go into a lot more detail about this, but basically, sometimes it’s a much needed snack break, other times it’s empathy, other times it’s jokes and laughter. 

3. One of my favorite quotes from the conference came from Terri Woods when she said that homeschool for her is just “loving what I love in front of my children.” I have been thinking so much about that, and it’s been really freeing. I have a lot of fun learning alongside my children and sharing with them the things that I love (like books!!). It’s really such a joy and privilege.

I’ve always said that my “ideal job” would be as a student for the rest of my life. I feel like I’m finally getting to do that.

I also love sharing book recommendations, so let me know if there’s something specific you’re interested in, especially when it comes to children’s literature.


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Our Planet

The planet Earth has been on our minds a lot lately. When you have kids that constantly remind you to reduce, recycle, and reuse, it’s really a wake-up call. Kids are so passionate about the planet, especially when they learn how our environment is suffering at human hands.

Recently, we were so shocked (and thrilled!!) when our son’s pre-K teacher told us that he loved answering the questions she’d posed in a classroom discussion about conservation.

It’s all thanks to this amazing documentary series,  which our dear friends told us about. I started letting the boys watch it as a treat on rainy school days, and I found myself sitting down next to them on the couch, unable to do anything else for 45 minutes but be captivated by the wonder and glory of creation. This show has changed our family’s life. We now have metal straws, and our seven year-old recently compared our baby’s noises to a bird of paradise which cracked me up. All thanks to the amazing perspective on wildlife and our amazing planet that this show has given to our family.

I recently picked up this book, Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet, at the library and have been really enjoying it with our boys. It’s nice to have some great biographies to go along with our household conversations about the planet.

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Books (about books) that changed my parenting

I’ve read a lot of parenting books. I’ve highlighted, underlined, dog-eared, and returned to them over and over on this journey of raising kids.

One of the biggest surprises to me, however, were these three books. I never expected books that were about books to change the way I parent my children. But these did.

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The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease started it all. I wanted to get more ideas for quality literature to read with my kids. With so many choices out there, it was really important to me that I knew how to discern what was best. So, I was basically looking for a list (this book has a great one), but what I got was a lesson: reading aloud is vital, not just when kids are small, but when they’re older, too. And I haven’t parented the same since I found out why. I checked this book out from the local library, devoured it, and then had to buy a copy to keep on my bookshelf forever. So, there you go.

My husband and I traveled a lot before we had kids. We still travel, but it’s not quite as straightforward as it used to be with four kids under 7. I came across Jamie C. Martin’s Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time early on in parenting, when I was really longing for travel, but just didn’t have the energy, time, or money to do so. I decided that we could start traveling right within our home, that reading aloud was an opportunity to go anywhere around the world together. This book gave me tons of ideas that have allowed us to share different places and people with our children which has been one of the greatest joys of parenting. I still add little notes to each country’s section if we discover a brand new book about a specific place that I want to add to Jamie’s amazing list.

Finally, this one is now a big-time podcast, movement, global conversation, with it’s author Sarah Mackenzie speaking all over the place and changing the world with her Read Aloud Revival: The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids. Sarah was also heavily influenced by Jim Trelease, and her contribution to the subject of reading aloud with your kids continues the discussion in some beautiful, creative, and practical ways. I have different and more meaningful everyday conversations with my kids based on this book’s advice. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Brazilian writer Mario Quintana said, “Books don’t change the world, people change the world, books only change people.” These books have certainly changed our family for the better.

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Skipping School

Today we skipped our regular morning routine and took off on a nature hike instead. We saw a blue heron and a raccoon fishing side by side in the soft morning light. We identified a plant I’d never heard of before – a beautyberry – and discovered that it is native to Japan and plays a role in a famous work of Japanese folklore, The Tale of Genji (which now I have to read because it sounds so interesting!). And this was all in the first five minutes of our walk…

I think it’s safe to say we found some ‘school’ out there in Nature.

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Quoth the Raven

[Kids Sometimes Like It When You Read Stuff That’s Not Kid Stuff]

This sounds like a terrible psychological experiment or some form of torture, but I recently read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” aloud to my 7, 5 and 3 year-old on a dark night in the middle of a thunderstorm, and they got a huge kick out of it.

I didn’t mean for this to happen, at all, but here is how it happened:

We were finishing up dinner on our screened porch when a huge summer storm took us by surprise. The wind blew in and the thunder crashed right over our heads. It was magical and terrifying, but the kids seemed to be okay because we were there, enjoying the heck out of it with them. It felt like Halloween feels when you’re young – it freaks you out, but you’re still not going to miss it for the world.

The power went off and we lit candles on the long wooden farm table where we were eating. When I went to the mantle to get the matches, I noticed (eerily) my copy of Poe’s greatest works sitting there. I had just bought this book because of another book that suggested his short story, “The Purloined Letter” was a metaphor for love (questionable), so I was curious to read that story. We had also just taken a family trip where we had seen a house that was dedicated to Poe’s life and writing, so he seemed to keep coming up. The book contains a collection of Poe’s poems as well, among which is “The Raven.”  I thought, if any poem needs to be read in a slightly scary voice in a pretty frightening thunderstorm to some small children it would be this one.

You should have seen my kids faces. They had no idea what the poem was about, but Poe’s language (and my enthusiasm for it), and maybe just their pure fear, kept them rapt. And even though it was a fun experience for me to share it, I didn’t think anyone would remember it – maybe the storm and our exciting family time on the porch – but not the obscure poem.

A few days ago, my five year-old came rushing into the kitchen from the yard, and asked me breathlessly, “Mama, what was it that that bird kept saying over and over again?”

It took a minute for me to register what he was talking about, but then I remembered Poe.

“Nevermore?” I said.

“Yes, that’s it!” he said, and he flew back outside.

Then I heard him shouting, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” as he ran into the woods, half-clad, chasing his brother with a homemade spear.

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If you haven’t read or don’t remember “The Raven,” here it is for your next stormy night.

And if you’re wanting to dive more deeply into some Poe, here you go.

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Francophiles

Our family loves France. Mark and I have visited many times, lots of different areas. We finally took some of the kids there this summer. The littlest ones stayed at home with their grandmothers (and had a blast!) while we went on an adventure with the oldest two.

We were in Paris for a few days and then drove down to the Dordogne Valley, one of our favorite regions. For the last week, we drove to the Pyrenees and stayed in a tiny farm village before crossing the mountains to fly out of Barcelona.

Here are the boys watching sheep at night in the Pyrenees:

Our ride on Le Petit Train d’Artouste:

And just a few of the books we enjoyed on our trip:

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Pack them all up and take them with you or read them at home for a little French getaway…

Katie and the Impressionists

And for all the Katie books (so wonderful!):

Paris Up, Up and Away

Joan of Arc

Anatole

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

Charlotte in Paris

A Giraffe Goes to Paris

Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea: The Eiffel Tower (The Story Behind the Name)

Oh, and there are SO many more we didn’t take on our trip (because we’ve read them 100 times already). Here are just a few:

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