I was asked by Jessica of Trivium Academy to share what chapter books I read to my children at first and second grade.
Reading "living books" is a major part of our homeschooling experience.
I hesitate to answer for the purpose to dictating to someone else what they should read aloud—I don’t want to dictate to anyone what books they SHOULD read, because I really think that the books are personalized not just by the child’s interests, depending on if a book is enjoyed by them as the book progresses, and also sometimes by typical gender preferences. I will tell some titles that we read to our older son.
Presently, my younger son (age 6.5, in first grade now) is having a different experience as he hears the stories geared more toward my older son so he gets some books earlier than a person would normally recommend. And my time is challenged with two children and so the order I am reading books changes depending on the child. Plus my younger son was precocious in the area of reading and was reading fluently at age four, so he has been able to read chapter books to himself already, so my plans for what I thought I would do for read-aloud’s have been sidetracked by the reality that he can now read them to himself!
I still recommend highly that picture books, especially the longer text books be read aloud for as long as possible, to age 8, 9, and 10, if possible. My personal opinion is that a first grader should have picture books read aloud to them daily and if you really want a chapter book, perhaps read one (or two) chapters per DAY. Reading chapter books in that manner then means that not a lot of chapter books will be read to the child in that first grade year.
Plus if you are reading aloud for history, science, religion, art history and music history, that is a lot of reading and does not allow for much time left for reading chapter books of fiction for fun and enjoyment! If the other subjects are good, fun, and interesting books the children already can feel they’ve had enough of being read aloud to in a day.
I also want to say that we also read aloud history and science books and anything else that our children are interested in. We don’t read just fiction.
Here is a list off the top of my head of some chapter books we read to my older son when he was in first and second grade.
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and all the sequels
Indian in the Cupboard (first book only, I didn’t like the start of book two)
Castle in the Attic and the sequel, Battle for the Castle
The Borrowers (first book only, just haven’t made time for the sequels)
Red Sails to Capri
Babe The Gallant Pig
Henry Huggins and some of the sequels by Beverly Cleary
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Little House in the Big Woods (waiting for later on the sequels, going to tie-in with history studies instead)
The Hundred Dresses
The Enormous Egg
Lost on a Mountain in Maine (a true story)
Formula books—series books
Magic Tree House (a couple to whet his appetite to read them on his own)
Boxcar Children #1 was read aloud in Kindergarten then the rest were left for independent reading
As I said before our main focus was to read lots of picture books. We use most of the books in the Five in a Row program (you can read their book lists online for free, on the Five in a Row website. The longer text picture books are also great.
I want to mention also that in world history my son’s favorite was D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths. Another favorite was "Paddle to the Sea" (history, geography) and "Pagoo" (science).
We also read short biographies of artists and composers such as the Mike Venezia books and those by Opal Wheeler.
As I mentioned in other discussions we also read fairy tales, tall tales, myths and fables. There are chapter book versions of stories such as American Tall Tales that can be read aloud. There are some great collections of fairy tales that are short on illustrations and long on text for read-aloud’s.
Lastly we also use audio books to listen to chapter books being read aloud while in the car or while the children are playing or making art. We have listened to all of Jim Weiss (the storytellers) recordings and also some other storytellers such as Odds Bodkin.
Oh, and the wonderful audio recordings that are dramatizations from Classical Kids such as “Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage”—those are wonderful and I believe they are 45-60 minutes long from start to ending which is a good way to get young children used to listening to longer stories in one sitting (while in the car). By the way if you want to make a unit study from these Classical Kids recordings, there are detailed teacher’s manuals available (if you can’t find the teacher’s manuals on Amazon try Rainbow Resource Center for discounted prices).
I noticed a shift with both of my boys from their ability to listen to longer stories at age 5, a big change from their abilities at age 4. Then again at age 6 both of my kids could sit for much longer to listen to the same story (and to pay attention). I feel that this longer concentration on one story line such as when driving in the car on long trips is a good mental exercise. I have noticed that my younger son has picked up the ‘ability’ to listen longer at a younger age because while in the car we were selecting mostly things for my older son’s listening ability. My younger son would just ‘tune out’ when bored, when he was 2, 3, and 4 years old. I was the surprised though, at my younger son’s ability to listen for longer after this unintentional ‘practice’.
Our family takes long car drives quite often (up to 500 miles in one day). Without a TV in the car we have relied on talking, music, and audio stories for entertainment. As my children get older and they no longer are happy to sing along with Raffi I am grateful for the chance to listen to longer chapter books in the car. It saves my voice and it is also more entertaining for me, as I pick stories I’d also like to listen to. After getting used to longer trips like that a one hour or 45 minute drive is ‘nothing’ to my children. (Other people I know say their children complain if they are in the car for more than ten minutes at a time and most then have resorted to buying TVs for their car, or letting them use handheld electronic games).
Oh, one more thing, I highly recommend the book “Deconstructing Penguins” which starts with second grade and lays out a way to teach concepts and elements of stories by using chapter books. Specific books are used and the book tells all that a person needs to know to use those books to teach the concepts. A parent could use the guidelines at home or it would enable any person to lead a book discussion group also. My son and I attended the book discussion by one of the author’s (Nancy Goldstone) so we saw this plan in action (plus I have the book at home). Also I know a couple of groups of homeschoolers who are using this book as a foundation to lead homeschoolers book discussion groups.
A favorite book which covers 120-ish pages of why reading aloud to children is important then has a big list of books for preschoolers and older children, too, is “Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt.
Well there you have it, a list from the top of my head.
All this talking about what we have read makes me want to go read more books to my children, right now!
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