I fail at a lot of things as a parent, but one thing I think Mark and I have done well is teach our kids to be voracious readers. (Here’s an earlier post about raising kids who love to read). Our kids’ beds are regularly hidden under piles of books. And while all four of our kids have regular early bedtimes, we let them stay up as late as they want—as long as they are reading. Mark and I also try to model this behavior for our kids, and make a point to be reading in front of them often.
One thing we are trying to do more of is read together, aloud, as a family. There’s something about all of us sitting around the table or on the couch together getting immersed in a story for the first time. Of course, it can be a challenge to find a book that appeals to our spread of ages and—this is important—a book that also captures our attention as parents. Our kids are ages 4 through 9 – so we’ve got a challenge in coming up with books everyone will appreciate. We’ve found, however, that there are plenty of old and new book series for kids that have appeal for all of us. With Christmas break coming up and lots of potential family time in store, I thought I’d share some of those series with you. Maybe carving out 15-20 minutes a day to read aloud to your kids would be a fantastic New Year’s resolution for 2014.
10 Book Series to Read Aloud with Your Kids 1 of 11
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The Complete Ramona Collection 2 of 11
The Mysterious Benedict Society 3 of 11
There's plenty to love about the Mysterious Benedict Society books from Trenton Lee Stewart, a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop. The main characters are a set of four very smart and talented boys and girls—each with weird quirks—and they learn to work together to use their abilities to save the world. This series combines hints of fantasy with a lot of puzzle-solving. Lots of adventure, suspense, and examples of friendship and loyalty.
Little House on the Prairie 4 of 11
It took some work to convince my kids of the value of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, but they ended up loving it. (Read about our adventures with these books here.) It's historical fiction on a child's level, full of virtue and family values, and I hope it continues to remind them of what life was like back then and make them grateful for what they have today. (In the first book, Laura's only toy is a corn cob she pretended was a doll! And she loved it! Take that, Apple products.)
A Series of Unfortunate Events 5 of 11
The Lemony Snicket books are a little darker and much more suspenseful than some children's fiction, so they might be a better choice for reading to my older kids. There's a sweet side to these stories, though. Despite the "unfortunate events," the readers end up seeing how fortunate the kids really are.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians 6 of 11
Another contemporary set, and one in which the books were definitely better than the movies. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan is a fun, creative introduction into Greek mythology, and the weird titles are compelling enough on their own to grab my kids' interest. Lots of humor, sarcasm, action, friendship, and even romance. Once you finish these, there's also a spin-off series: The Heroes of Olympus.
The Wrinkle in Time Quintet 7 of 11
A classic series from Madeleine L'Engle and another childhood favorite of mine. I grew up with the Murry and O'Keefe families and can't wait to introduce my own kids to them. Like the Mysterious Benedict books, this series features kids who are different because they are so incredibly smart. I love books that make heroes out of kids who have math and science abilities. Plus, you can't do better than a novel beginning with the classic line "it was a dark and stormy night."
Infinity Ring 8 of 11
Infinity Ring is multi-platform series (by multiple authors) that I think my older kids will love. Lots of puzzles in the books, along with historical figures and situations. For what it's worth, there's also an online gaming component to the series that I'm a bit meh about. What I do like is that you can't play the games until you've read each book, because each book unlocks a section of the game. Still, it's entirely possible to just read the books without even worrying about the games... which sounds like a plan to me.
The Chronicles of Narnia 9 of 11
Another classic. Introducing kids to Narnia is practically a parenting rite of passage. The religious allegory can be a bit overbearing sometimes, but that's me reading it as an adult. For kids, the stories are great whether you get the symbolism or not. I like the fact that the kids in these books (Edmund, Eustace) make huge mistakes and fail spectacularly... but eventually find redemption. Also: talking animals.
Harry Potter series 10 of 11
Of course, right? I think any family that wants to read a series of books together should start with Harry Potter. The books get darker and scarier as the series progresses, but that's a journey you can go on together. I've had friends who wouldn't let their kids see the individual films until they'd all finished the book together, and I believe that's an excellent plan. (We follow it, too, with all movies based on books.)
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings 11 of 11
So. I'm not the biggest fan of wizards and dwarves and hobbits, which means this series may be Mark's territory. But, still, the Lord of the Rings is a classic. At least for the guys. If Mark wants to lead Jafta and Kembe down into Middle Earth—or wherever the elves and dragons are—then I won't stop him.