A 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)?