Monday, March 18, 2013

Reading is for sharing! Sharing is caring!

Shocking revelation: Story Time is at least as rewarding for the reader as it is for the readee!

I've read with children in classrooms, in bookstores, and curled up on couches with hot chocolate before bedtime. I've read chapter books, picture books, and even books with no pictures. I've made up my own stories or retold stories that only exist in oral storytelling. Reading aloud (or telling your own stories) isn't just about repeating words on a page. It's a new way of experiencing a story. I was taught how to read aloud by examples set me during my childhood: my father (who also made up some fantastic stories of his own), my fifth grade teacher, every live theater production of Shakespeare I ever saw or performed, audiobooks ...

Looking for suggestions? I love making them! I also love a countdown. Below are my top five picks for read-alouds:

5. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

I read this with my third graders last year and we had a blast! It's one of those books that feels like it was easy to write because it's so clear and tight, in terms of craft and imagery. The characters are also very easy to visualize, which means that infusing characters with personality and energy (aka making up awesome voices) is not hard to do. This is important if you're new to reading aloud. Plus, Wrede's novel tells a funny and powerful story about friendship and being true to yourself - that's pretty appealing no matter how old you are.

4. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, ill. by Axel Scheffler

Not only is Gruffalo a popular picture book but it was also an Oscar-nominated animated short film a couple of years ago. What I love about it is that the rhyme scheme helps tell a very funny story without getting old. I think every reader appreciates a strong story but I know as an adult, who might wind up rereading the same story every day for a year, that a clever and thoughtful story makes for a refreshing read (even if it's the five-hundredth read).

3. The Watsons Go To Burmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

I had a fifth grade teacher who was from Texas and his lazy southern drawl breathed incredibly vivid life into a story that was both historically and geographically distant from anything my Northwest, suburban self knew. Kenny's story is both funny (his family are a riot!) and powerful (he's African American and living in Alabama during the Civil Right's Movement) and really comes to life when someone who cares about it reads it aloud.

2. Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, ill. by Barbara Cooney

This is another one from my childhood. My Aunty M (no, really) used to read to my sister and I quite a lot, and I'll never forget this one. McLerran's words lay the foundation of the imaginary town, Cooney's crystal-clear illustrations fill in the sand-blasted desert color, and Aunty M's slow, deep voice breathed life into each page. My sister and I built our own Roxaboxen after Aunty M read this to us and children I've read it with since have discussed, drawn, and created their own, too.

1. Harry Potter and Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Yes, I know this book doesn't need another plug. I have to mention it here, though, because of it's truly magical in its ability to help almost anyone become an avid reader. Many of my friends grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione and experience their first reading of the text as a classroom or parental read-aloud. I was a teen when I discovered Harry Potter through the Jim Dale-narrated audiobooks (if you want a crash course in read-aloud, look no further!), and haven't stopped listening since (although the Stephen Fry-narrated audiobooks are definitely worth a listen, too).

My absolute favorite Harry Potter read-aloud success story comes from a friend in Seattle. Her husband was never very interested in reading. My friend, however, had broken her literary teeth on Harry Potter and was dying to share them with someone new. One night before bed, she spontaneously began reading them aloud to her husband. From that evening on, they worked their way through the entire series together and he hasn't stopped reading since.

Want your child to become a lifelong reader? Want to turn a reluctant adult into an bookstore junky? Read aloud with them!

Also! Join us for Brookline Booksmith's Children's Story Time (click on the link for a sneak-peek!) every third Saturday of the month. Next Story Time will be April 20 at 10:30am. Kids ages zero to ninety-nine welcome! 

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