Reading Aloud: Ephemeral Entertainment I Wish Would Last Longer

Readers Please Help MeA few weeks ago, I begged the Twitterverse for a list of chapter books as fun as Louis Sachar’s Wayside School series for my 7-year-old twins.

My Twitter friends obliged, suggesting Harry Potter, Giada’s Recipe for Adventure series, and Louis Sachar’s There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom and Holes.* So far, we’ve read There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, we’re in the middle of Holes, and Giada will be next!

Now I’m looking for more books. Some of these novels will be ones my daughters will read privately (which they love to do), while others are ones we’ll enjoy together (which they also love to do).

Reading aloud to my kids — and having them read aloud to me — is one of the most enjoyable parts of parenting. We read together for a couple of minutes every morning at the bus stop, for thirty minutes to an hour at night, and for an hour every Saturday in a Center City coffee shop as we wait for their younger sister’s Spanish class to end and for theirs to begin.

It’s so interesting to read books with my kids. Not only is it an opportunity for me to model literacy for them and assess their reading progress, but it also gives me a chance to talk to my children about topics that wouldn’t come up otherwise.

Sometimes the topics catch me off-guard, as it did when my daughter brought The Butterfly, a very serious picture book, home from the school library last year. I was entirely unprepared to discuss the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation of France with my then-almost six-year-olds.

Even books I thought I knew, like Sachar’s Sideways Stories From Wayside School, sometimes raise heavy issues seemingly out of the blue, like weapons and violence at school.

But the discussions I’ve had with my children about these types of challenging themes have been fascinating. Sachar’s Holes, for example, takes place in a bleak juvenile detention facility, a subject my young daughters knew nothing about. I’ve been so impressed by their grasp of the issues and their empathy for the characters, subjects I’ll address in a later post when we finally finish the book.

Right now, my daughters love reading books with me, and I want to use this time we have together wisely. I want to read as many books together as we can before they “grow up” and retreat exclusively into their own private book worlds. Reading privately is an important part of their self-discovery and development, but I’ll miss our time together with a single book in front of us.

In the past, before TVs, computers, and tablets, reading aloud was a major form of collective entertainment for everyone in the family, not just for the children. Jane Austen, for example, entertained her family and vetted her stories by reading drafts aloud. Anyone who questions the entertainment value of reading aloud need only listen to the audiobook version of Persuasion performed by Juliet Stevenson, whom my husband wishes would read U.S. Supreme Court opinions to him. (He adds, “if only she could use dramatic license to change the content, too.”) Many adults have never really left their love of being read to behind — we just don’t admit it anymore.

While I hope that my family will continue to read aloud together, I think it’s likely that this pastime will disappear in just a few years. Maybe I’ll be able to convince my daughters to join a book club with me someday (not that I’m likely to have much success when they’re teenagers!).

For now, though, I’m looking for books we can read aloud together. Do you have any suggestions ideal for mature 7-year-olds (and their young-at-heart mom)?

*Thank you to Maggie, Jaclyn, and Karma for these suggestions!


  1. I’m late to this party, but I would recommend the Humphrey books by Betsy Birney. Humphrey is a class pet who spends the weekends with different students and learns about different cultures and family situations. D is also a big fan of Ivy and Bean, the A to Z mysteries, Geronimo Stilton, and My Weird School.

  2. I loved Sideways Tales! Some other books they might like are:

    Museum of Thieves
    Aliens Ate My Homework
    Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher
    Anything by Roald Dahl

    I’ll probably think of more after I go to bed tonight. 🙂

      1. Doing great, but busy with Ember. Thought of Heidi’s favorite childhood series, too. The Book of Three, and The Black Cauldron series.

    1. Great! Thanks for the suggestions! I’ve never read Tale of Despereaux, but from what I’ve seen online, it sounds perfect for my girls. I like the idea of introducing them to the concept of different viewpoints.

    1. We really are enjoying these books, particularly Holes. We’re only a little over 70% of the way through it because of how much discussion it encourages. At first, I was concerned that my daughters weren’t ready to read about a juvenile detention facility, but they’ve proven me wrong! Thank you so much for recommending it.

  3. Roald Dahl and The Hobbit are great suggestions. Another book I really enjoyed having read to me was An Occasional Cow by Polly Horvath.

    I have had times in my adult life of regular reading aloud with other adults and I’ve known other people who do so as well. I miss that! It doesn’t always die out, but it is relatively rare.

  4. The Black Stallion series by Walter Farley, because HORSES. Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians by Mary Nash; it may be dated, but it’s still funny. If you get the edition with the three kids at a news stand on the green cover, you’ll also get some wonderful illustrations. I recently re-read this book and loved it still. 🙂 And it’s at Amazon!

    1. Yes, my daughters would love a book about horses! I’ll also look into Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians. I’ve never heard of it before. Thanks for the suggestions!

    1. I loved Nancy Drew when I was a kid. My daughters have been listening to audiobooks of the newer “Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew” (for a younger audience). I should definitely introduce them to the original ones. Thanks!

  5. I recently took a trip with my daughters and we listened to the audiobook of Roald Dahl’s the BFG. My seven-year-old absolutely loved it, although I’m glad it was someone else reading it aloud and not me because he does such crazy things with language that I would have been stumbling over all the words. His books are great for that age group, though.

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