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Every month, my children come home with a new reading log. They’re expected to keep track of the time they spend reading each day, with a goal of 20 minutes most days of the week. Now, I love reading and I love that my kids are encouraged to read by their school. But to be honest, I absolutely hate these darn reading logs.
I used to obsess about whether my kids were reading enough, or in the right way. Should my older son be reading more chapter books? Should I be encouraging my younger son to read more books on his own? Were we keeping up with those pesky reading logs?
Then I decided to throw in the towel on all of it — the worrying, the prodding, the charts and logs — and decided to just go with it. My kids were reading, after all, and their teachers assured me that they were right where they needed to be developmentally. And isn’t that what really counts?
So I stopped keeping track of their reading charts; if they want to record time on them, that’s fine, but I no longer nag them to do so. I stopped pushing them to read certain kinds of books, and let them choose their own books. If my older son reads only comic books or Believe It or Not books for a month, so be it.
I also started reading to my children again, something I think many parents stop doing as our children grow and life becomes increasingly busy. A few months ago, however, I picked up the book The One and Only Ivan thinking my son might want to read it while we were on a family vacation. However, when we returned from the vacation without him ever opening the book, I decided I would read it myself. So, for 10 days, we all gathered in my sons’ bedroom each night, and I read pages from the book aloud.
Reading together as a family — even reading aloud to big kids, tweens, and teens who are perfectly capable for reading independently — offers several benefits. For one thing, it’s a great way to engage the entire family, regardless of age differences or reading ability. Reading together can also help children with language development, especially when it involves language that is culturally different from their own. (As a teaching expert once pointed out to me, “Hearing language orally, by reading aloud to children, can highlight the beauty in the writing that often gets missed when reading silently.”) But most of all, reading is fun, y’all — and it’s great to bond with your kids over a shared interest.
Whether your family likes adventure stories or humor, chapter books or picture books, here are eight books that are perfect for reading together as a family:
1. The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
This epic fantasy series by J.R.R. Tolkein is a much-loved childhood classic that few adults ever outgrow. In fact, when my husband read The Hobbit to our son, I’m not sure which of them was more eager to hear the story each night.
Available from Amazon for $10.95
2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I first read this book last year and instantly fell in love. I purposely waited until my sons were a little older so that they could appreciate the beauty of this story. We recently started reading this again and the book is even better than the first time around. There’s nothing like belly-laughing over fart jokes together and crying two pages later at the strength of the 10-year-old August.
Available from Amazon for $9.75
3. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This award-winning book is told from the point of view of a gorilla who lives inside a mall. Strange? A little. Captivating? Absolutely. It’s an unforgettable story of friendship, hope, and the power of art to touch minds and hearts.
Available from Amazon for $6.78
4. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another award-winner, The Giver follows the story 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in a bland, colorless world of conformity. The book touches on issues of government control, idealism, and what it means to truly be alive. Because the book talks about complex issues that might be difficult for some tweens to grasp, hearing the story read by an adult can help distill the concepts.
Available from Amazon for $7.19
5. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Is there a person on the planet who doesn’t know and love the Harry Potter stories? I don’t think so. But reading the books together can be a good way to test a child’s readiness for the dark magic and emotional concepts in some of the books. Our family read the first book together before seeing the movies together so that our kids were prepared for some of the scary parts, which seem even scarier on screen.
Available from Amazon for $52.16
6. The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
This book was recommended by a teacher friend of mine and, admittedly, I hadn’t heard of it. Just one look at its description and I’m hooked. Excuse me for a minute while I add this to my Amazon Prime queue …
Available from Amazon for $5.99
7. The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Newberry award-winner Kate DiCamillo (author of Flora & Ulysses) never disappoints with her captivating use of words and illustrations to tell a compelling story. This fantastical story filled with unusual characters draws children — and adults — into a magical world that dives into universal issues of hope, belonging, and compassion. The language and literary style can be a bit difficult for some younger readers to understand, regardless of reading ability, so this is a great one for adults to read aloud.
Available from Amazon for $4.99
8. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Combining adventure with Greek mythology, the Percy Jackson series is great for thrill-seekers who love a good page-turner. Children will be so intrigued, they won’t even realize they’re learning about Greek mythology in the process, and parents who slept through that class in high school can get a refresher course. Win-win!
Available from Amazon for $24.64
If this list doesn’t convince you to ditch the reading chart and read together as a family, think back to your favorite book as a child and imagine re-experiencing it with your children. You’ll be calling the family together for a story in no time.