Fred Stein, Children Reading Newspaper, Paris, 1936.
Research shows that reading aloud to kids from birth supports their language development and literacy skills. It also helps foster a love of reading, which is, in my opinion, a great gift, and can also be a factor in future academic success.
But research smesearch! What’s true for us is that the ritual of curling up together at the end of the day and spending some quiet time immersed in another world is really a beautiful thing, and can be a good antidote to the go-go-go energy of the homework-dinner-bath-bed shift.
To stick through a chapter book night after night can be tough when the book itself is badly written (I’m looking at you, Wiggles marketing department), and it can be hard to contain the energy of smaller audience members when the language is rich and interesting, as is the way with the best kids books. It’s hard to find books that distill complex ideas into simple words, but here are five that we have found to be enjoyable for both reader and listener.
Anna is a little girl who lives in Africa, and her adventures are presented in short, easy-chunk stories. These moral fables are modern, but have an old-timey charm. Adult readers will love the eccentric characters in Anna’s family, and the books are excellent as first chapter-books for early readers to pick through alone. Anna is seriously adorable.
The Faraway Tree
Enid Blyton’s classic series of stories about the Enchanted Wood are a perennial favourite in this house. The audio-book collection is beautiful too. Both 7 year old Peanut and 5 year old T-Bone love these whimsical stories about a gang of children adventuring in magical lands like Take-What-You-Want, Do-What-You-Like and the Land of Birthdays.
A cracking read. This was young Peanuts first favourite chapter book. She read it over and over (and watched the movie too. ) Eleven-year-old Nim lives on a tropical island with just her Dad and her animal friends. She’s feisty, practical and adept at bushcraft: a really interesting heroine.
The Fantastic Mister Fox
Everything Roald Dahl touches is magic, and we have loved all of his books. But I have a special Mr Fox-shaped place in my heart, not least because my T-Bone has the middle name Fox in honour of the party-loving, strategic, brilliant hero of the story. It’s also a shorter read, split in nice chunks for younger attention spans. (The full Roald Dahl audio-book set has also been a huge hit with our kids.)
My hands-down favourite book of recent times, Wonder spends a year in the life of August, a fifth-grader with a cranio-facial deformity. It’s beautifully written from a number of different perspectives, and I cried floods of tears at the finish. Seven year old Peanut turned straight to page 1 and started reading it again, and we’ve had several interesting conversations about disability and kids and ‘walking in other people’s shoes’ since.