With so many books to choose from, selecting books for read alouds can be overwhelming. Sometimes we can’t seem to find a book that feels right and sometimes we get stuck choosing the same books over and over again because we don’t know where else to look for inspiration. Here are 3 tips to help you choose books that will be a breath of fresh air for your read aloud time. Using these ideas, you will be able to weed out the uninspiring books and allow the remarkable ones to shine through.
1. Choose books that appeal to you.
It sounds so simple, but there is so much truth to this statement. If you do not particularly like the book you are reading aloud to your children, they will feel it. You will dread the read aloud time and it will likely happen less often. There is no reason why we have to finish reading every book we start. Choosing to stop reading a book is a great discussion starter with our children. What about this book doesn’t appeal to me? Is it the way it is written? Is the plot too slow? Too fast-paced? Are there too many technical terms, which I am not familiar with, but are specific to this book’s setting or plot?
This does not mean that you never step out of your comfort zone. There are times when it is valuable to choose a book that will benefit your children but isn’t one you would necessarily choose for your own enjoyment. This may be the perfect time for a shared listening experience, such as an audio book. Encountering a book together, all as listeners, enriches the read aloud time in a new way, and it also allows our children to see us as the life-long learners we hope for them to be.
2. Use great book lists to inspire your choices.
I hesitate to include this as a tip for choosing read alouds because it seems that book lists are everywhere, and some are certainly better than others. Knowing which book lists to use is just as important as choosing the books themselves. And which book list you choose depends on your purpose. If you are looking for the best in picture books, check out the Caldecott list. The best in novels for young people? Take a look at the list of Newberry Winners. If you want to bring more multi-cultural books into your read aloud time, the Batchelder Award list will help. The American Library Association is a great resource for book lists!
Caution: book lists can be addicting! We sometimes find ourselves thinking of it as a check list of books we must read, rather than a list of the very best book suggestions. Don’t be a slave to the list! It is a tool that serves you and your family as you select books for your read aloud time. Use your favorite book lists to guide your selections so that the joy of reading aloud is kindled not extinguished.
3. Keep the balance between old and new favorites.
When it comes to reading aloud, we may feel like we need to share a new book every time, but this just isn’t the case. If a book is worth reading once, it is worth reading again. It is no secret that children love to hear their favorite books read over and over again. This repetition allows for the listener to make new discoveries in the book each time. This is especially true with longer chapter books and more complex picture books. Re-reading a book for the third or fourth or fifteenth time is also a great springboard for discussion. There’s a reason why your child loves this book so much and talking about it will bring you closer. Your child will know that you care about what he or she has to say and about what’s important to them.
Reading old favorites is comforting and valuable, but finding some new favorites is important too. Bringing a variety of books to the read aloud time doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does take some thought. Are you selecting mostly stories? Add in some non-fiction too. Is your child inhaling books about the solar system? How about adding in a few Greek Myths and starting a discussion about how the planets were named? Or read about the famous moon landing of Apollo 11 in a book like Moonshot. The poetic nature of the text makes this an outstanding non-fiction read aloud, especially for those of us who are typically intimidated by non-fiction.
Don’t be afraid to try something new or challenge yourself to read from a variety of genres and authors. Again, it’s a great place for discussions to start.
Above all, the read aloud time is about more than just books. It’s about relationships. The relationships within our family and our family’s relationship with reading. Always choose what works for your family and leave the rest. Happy Reading!