reading aloud to The Maniacs

Reading one of our favorites,
The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil,
on a Saturday morning, just because we wanted to.
Normally we read at bedtime.
I've always read to our boys. We read picture books together when they were still babies - they were turning the pages so fast that I could only read the first 2 words on each page. Gradually their attention span grew longer than a millisecond. Now, after reading 15 minutes of a picture-less chapter book to them, they beg me for just one more chapter. I shoot for 10 minutes per night in our chapter book (after I read a picture book to Ben and Nate reads one to all of us), but sometimes we really get into the stories.

I read a couple of years ago that a child's listening level is higher than their reading level, which makes perfect sense because they can listen to books long before they even learn to read. And listening is a useful skill for early elementary school, since they aren't reading as much on their own yet, but listening to their teachers in class. This post says that their reading level catches up to their listening level in eighth grade. Thus, reading aloud is beneficial even to older children. I plan to keep it going until they don't want to listen to me anymore, though I want to stick with more complicated stories. We read some this year that I felt were too simple for reading aloud, which I comment about in the list below.

Before I get to the list, though, you may be thinking, my kid is far too active to listen to a chapter book - it will never hold his/her attention. So let me offer some tips. My boys are wild. I frequently refer to them as The Maniacs (in a loving way, of course). This is how I lengthened their attention span and helped them get into listening to chapter books.

Start small
Baby steps. Shoot for 5 minutes of chapter book to start. That might mean half of a chapter or just a few pages. It's ok. As they get used to it, they won't be as restless, and you can lengthen the amount of time you read.   
Snack or...
The Maniacs can often be still if they are enjoying a snack. They know they aren't allowed to talk with food in their mouths, so it is also a rare time of day when they are relatively quiet. We read chapter books with them laying in bed getting ready to sleep now, but I used to only be able to read to them when they were snacking. 
...let them move around
When I first started chapter books with Nate, Ben was 2 years old. As long as he was not being disruptive, I let him move around the room while I read. I can't even say at what point he stopped playing and started listening to the stories. It all happened very gradually. 
Sum up
To make sure they are "getting it," I ask questions or sum up occasionally and sometimes I ask them what they think will happen next. I feel like this engages their imaginations a bit more actively as they get used to listening to stories instead of watching videos or looking at picture books. 
Use chapter books with a few pictures
Some of the books we've read have a picture or two in each chapter. These have gone a long way to help keep the boys interested.
Designate a time
We have kept a bedtime routine since Nate was a baby. It always helped him get ready to sleep. We worked reading chapter books into that routine. You don't have to do it at bedtime, but having a designated "now it's time to read chapter book" time each day helped both of them know what to expect. 

On to the list...
We read a lot this year. A LOT. Last year, when I first posted about reading chapter books, we were aiming for 8 in 2014. We have vastly surpassed that number this year. Here's our reading list for 2015:

  • The Boxcar Children (Book 1) I loved this one probably more than they did, but I loved the Boxcar series as a child.
  • Peter Pan This book, as well as the two Alice books below, was bizarre. I don't think the boys really followed the surrealism.
  • Alice's Adventures Underground
  • Through the Looking Glass
  • The Second Jungle Book This one and the next 6 are classics, and I don't have much to say except: they are classic (or new classic), and I absolutely recommend them for reading aloud or independent readers.
  • The Secret Garden
  • Just So Stories
  • Mr Popper's Penguins 
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
  • Superfudge
  • The Black Stallion
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle We will come back to the Ralph S Mouse series. This was fun!
  • The BFG One Roald Dahl book I didn't read as a kid. It could be gruesome thinking about all the giants eating children, but it didn't seem to bother the kids. We will probably read about the Big Friendly Giant again one day.
  • A Scaly Tale (RBI Series book 1) This book, as well as the next 4, is one that I think would be more fun for a kid to read on their own. They are short and simple (we read each in less than a week).
  • The Dragon's Triangle (RBI Series book 2)
  • Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk (Stink Moody Series book 7)
  • EllRay Jakes and the Beanstalk (EllRay Jakes Series book 5)
  • Johnny B Fast, Superspy (Johnny B Fast book 1)
  • Sir Gawain, His Squire, and His Lady This is a series I could get into. The author takes classic Camelot tales and retells them for kids, with some characters of his own creation. This one stays fairly true to Gawain and the Green Knight.
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil (twice) We would all love to read more adventures of Ordinary Basil. Attack of the Volcano Monkeys is on our list for next year, if we can find it.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory This didn't make the blog post last year, but we read it in 2014. The rest of this list we read last year, and they made it back on our reading list this year by popular request.
  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator 
  • My Father's Dragon (trilogy)
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • The House at Pooh Corner 
  • Rikki Tikki Tavi We read all of The Jungle Book last year, but this is the one story they wanted to hear again and again.

We are currently reading Charlotte's Web, which was on my list for this year at the end of last year, and my sister sent a copy with my parents last week! Next will be A Christmas Carol. We have now read it near Christmas 2 years in a row, and I think we will keep this tradition. I like it.


  1. I'm not near as intentional about this as you are but we all love to read together. Meg isn't quite as into it as James and Caleb just wants to chew on books right now but he does like lift a flap books. There are read aloud books worked into the homeschool curriculum we are using. Most of them are great. Off your list we read Charlotte's Web, The Boxcar Children, and My Father's Dragon book 1 (we loved this one, I need to find the rest). One of our other favorites, which is more a collection of short stories not a chapter book, was James Herriot's Treasury for Children.


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