I didn’t keep a baby book for my boy. But most of his milestones have been archived in writing, documented in thousands of digital photos and pressed into my mind. Among my favorite is learning to read. I took a video that I still keep on my phone from his early days of reading alone. His baby robot reading voice rattles on during those three minutes, and behind the camera phone, I both smiling and sobbing.
He’s eight now a year-and-a-half into reading chapter books on his own now, but we still spend time each night before bed and some time before he takes off for weekends with his dad reading together. I know that all too soon, early-reader chapter books will give way to e-reader textbook and probably magazines I will never, ever as his mother need to know he “reads.” For now, though, I love sharing half-hour escapes with my son and a dapper-dressed mouse, a bulletin-board flattened boy, a lost dog, a monster that lives in the potty and a middle child with social anxiety disorder.
These characters and chapters have delivered conversations, inside jokes and made-up stories inspired by whatever it is we read the night before. I’ve loved many of these books as much, and sometimes more, than my second-grader. But maybe it is because I know the time we spend snuggled up with a Shel Silverstein poem or classic Cleary series is fleeting, the books we read aloud will move to the back of the book shelf or into taped-up boxes in the basement — and all too soon.
Here are ten books (some from a series worth make your way through) my boy has begged to read for just five minutes more, that have made us both laugh, with pages we’ve dog-eared many times. Of course, your daughters may love them, your kids who are older or younger may tear through them, too.
But if you want specifics, here are ten great books for boys aged 6-ish to 9-ish to read with you, the best of all we’ve read (so far).
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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson 1 of 10"This one's about a boy's adventures with his imaginary friend, a tiger stuffed animal," that's all I had to say about "Calvin and Hobbes" to my 8-year old son. I'd found it at a garage sale, and an hour later, my boy was stretched out on the couch, pouring over each page. It's great weekend reading for him. And lucky for all of us, I am quite sure my brother has a few more Calvin and Hobbes books stashed in my parents' basement somewhere. [My cost, 25-cents, $10 new.Available here.]
Alvin Ho by Lenore Look 2 of 10Alvin Ho is the middle child, has social anxiety issues and is afraid of many things. You'll want to read this with your son to explain the oft-referenced writers Alvin believes haunt the town and why he goes to see a therapist. But the explanations are well worth it -- Alvin and his family handle fears, school, a friend with an eye patch and even the death of a family friend in the series with sweetness, humor, cleverness and realness. Alvin's quirky ways will make you and your kiddo love him (and quickly) -- in his Firecracker Man costume, as he confers with his grandparents and as he takes his dad's advice on being a gentleman. [$6.99. Available here.]
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee 3 of 10Take a break in between chapter books for this adorably illustrated, stylized book about two boys who go to Nature Camp for a week. James and Eamon are buddies who spend the week with Eamon's grandparents, hilarious and retired penguin lovers, and learn more about being friends in the off-hours of camp than they do making pine-cone crafts. Moments of silliness, lots of real boy-talk and a sweet ending. [About $12. Available here.]
Secret Agent Jack Stalwart series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt 4 of 10Nine-year old Jack is a secret agent, who not only solves crimes but is also in search of his missing older brother. Jack's backpack is filled with cool spy gear and, even better, each novel includes a file on the country and culture that he visits. Honestly, my son has filed away facts about China, Kenya and Italy that frequently surprise me from this intel. We're anxiously hoping Singer Hunt writes a few more for this series. [$6 each. Available here.]
Stuart Little by E.B. White 5 of 10E.B. White wrote the adventures of Stuart Little, a mouse born into a human family in New York City, in 1945. And while some details will confound your kid -- an inkwell on the teacher's desk, an ice box in the kitchen, a telephone on the wall in the hall -- the charm and humor will speak to you both. Like Beverly Cleary, White has a way of writing to kids in a wholesome, cheeky way you will be delighted by as well. [$6 or free if you can dig it out of a dusty box in your attic. Available here. ]
Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary 6 of 10Beverly Cleary first put Henry Huggins on the page in 1950 after the boys in the library where she worked asked her to write a book about "boys like us." Henry lives on Klickitat Street in Portland, Oregon, has friends on the street (including Beezus and Ramona, who later got their own series), dreams of having a paper route and adopts a dog who becomes his best buddy. My son and I read all of Cleary's books one summer, and "Henry Huggins" was the perfect beginning to an amazing reading experience. [$6 each.Available here.]
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary 7 of 10Henry Huggins, one of Cleary's central characters, has lost his dog Ribsy. While Henry and his family search, Ribsy tries to find his way home, having adventures of his own at many stops along the way. Think you (or your boy) can't be engaged for a few hundred pages of a dog's point of view? Well, then you haven't read Cleary's description as a lonely granny dresses the pup up in spectacles for her lady-friends. [Six bucks, and I skipped over the sentences about Ribsy eating horse meat.Available here.] ]
Everything On It by Shel Silverstein 8 of 10Every few months, we pull out a Shel Silverstein poetry book. They each have their own magic and all are full of sweet, thought-provoking and funny poems that your child will come to differently as he grows, develops and learns to read them with different inflection, voices and experiences. Perhaps the most pivotal: This book has a poem and illustration about a toilet troll. You're welcome. [$12 hardcover. Available here.]
Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat 9 of 10Nate solves mysteries, along with his sidekick dog, for his offbeat friends. Taking breaks over pancakes to review clues and leaving handwritten notes for his mother, Nate knows exactly who he is even before he figures out where the missing stamp, beach ball and birthday present went. As the reader, the cadence in Nate books is perfection, lending an old-timey detective feel to classic kid talk. The older books rate higher in my opinion than newer adventures, but there are plenty of both. These swift reads are perfect to pick up for a trip. [$4.50 each. Available here.]
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown 10 of 10The series about Stanley Lambchop, a boy who is accidentally flattened in the night by a fallen bulletin board, was launched in the mid-60's and spurred scholastic projects for many school kids. Stanley embraces his new existence, mailing himself to other countries to solve mysteries, allows himself to be flown like a kite and scales the Washington monument. Fun, entertaining and simple reads, the only downside of the flattened hero is the predictable formula. [$3-5-ish for each book. Available here.]
What are your top picks of books to read with your son?
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