Reading Reimagined

Teaching my kids to read has (so far) been one of the most rewarding – but hardest! – things I’ve done as a mom.

I’ve learned that reading is not automatic for every child. I wish I’d known that earlier, but that’s why I’m sharing this post. Some kids are reading confidently when they’re 5, just adding new vocab along the way. Some kids are working very hard at all of it until they’re 10. And everything in between.

Some children need very little guidance. They see the words and just take them in like a sponge. That was me when I learned to read. Other kids need really explicit instruction, especially in phonics. And phonics instruction is totally different from just reading aloud with your kids. It’s a whole methodology that you really do take step by step beginning with phonemic awareness when kids are young.

A can be ā or ä or short a (not sure how to make the breve mark on the computer)

S can be s or z

etc.

If a child needs a lot of explicit phonics instruction, it’s very different work from just sitting side by side and helping them through a book.

To help anyone on this journey, I wanted to share a few resources that I’ve used (or wish I had used!) to make things a little easier along the way. There are tons, literally tons, of articles online about the best ways to teach reading, textbooks on the subject, lots and lots of opinions (strong ones!), but in the end, it’s really about what works best for you and your child. It’s so great if you’ve never had to utilize any of these resources, if your child just picked up reading like riding a bike, but if you’re struggling, I hope some of these will be helpful.

**Note: I have not included the ever-popular BOB books which we used early on, but they’re great if your child gets into them.

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Confession: I got this book when my first-born was about 4, thinking that I would use it to teach him to read by age 5. When we started, I found the method confusing and I abandoned the book a few lessons in. What I realize now is that there were two things going on:

1) I didn’t realize that my son was going to be on the slower side of reading (I thought he should be picking it up faster if the book was working)
2) The reason the book was confusing to me is that I hadn’t needed much understanding of phonics when I learned to read, so it was like a foreign language and I just didn’t see how it could work

Now I wish that we’d kept at this book. And I’ll use it for my other kids.

Here is an article from the Atlantic that talks about this particular book. It was shared with my by a professional reading instructor.

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When it comes to more phonics instructions, I’ve really liked the books from Logic of English. I don’t incorporate their handwriting practice (although I think they have a really really interesting approach), but for learning the different phonograms, etc. from an early age, these are great resources (and they have little videos on YouTube that go along with this book if you aren’t sure yourself how to make the sounds!)

This program is pretty comprehensive, so you might want to check out their site and read more before diving in: logicofenglish.com

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Explode the Code! Reading really is a code and it’s fun to think of it that way when you’re teaching a child that’s having a harder time.

I didn’t do these with my first child, but I probably will with the others, especially if I see signs that someone may need a little more help.

You can read more about which program might be good for your child on their site: Explode the Code
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Readers that are engaging and in line with the child’s interests:

For my son this was Star Wars readers 🙂

I’ve really had to find ways to make reading fun to make it stick. Basically, I thought about what was most interesting to my child (e.g. Star Wars) and got readers based around that theme. That’s when reading really started to click. There are World of Reading sets of all different levels and all different themes. And many other titles as well – Penguin Young Readers, Ready to Read, Step into Reading, etc. They’re so many at the library, it’s only a matter of finding a theme or style that really engages the reader.

Recently I accidentally stumbled into a really good strategy for encouraging more independent reading. I began reading aloud a Nate the Great book, but couldn’t finish because I needed to cook dinner. My son was already hooked by the mystery, so he finished the book on his own right away. About 20 minutes of reading time that I didn’t have to enforce.

Reading/Writing/Spelling practice that correlates with the child’s interests:

Here’s another example that we’ve incorporated for writing and spelling that involves Minecraft. My son has loved going through these lessons. There are different levels based on your child’s age/grade.

Even if you’re not homeschooling some of these might be helpful to supplement in areas where your child is having a tough time.

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The following are some interesting reads for parents, about reading. It’s a fascinating subject and the way that the brain decodes the written word is really just amazing. It would have been great to read some of these before I started into homeschooling…

Note: I don’t necessarily espouse everything I read in books like this, but I find that reading widely on this subject just helps me better understand the landscape around the question: What is reading??
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Finally, other activities that have helped us with reading:

-Composing and reading letters from friends and family
-Composing and reading text messages from grandparents (maybe one of our favorite reading activities!)
-On-line games (oh screens, they’re sometimes very helpful!)

And, the very most important of all, reading aloud. I know it take a lot of time and energy (and often all I want to do is hide away in the bedroom and curl up with my own book). But these books forever changed the way I approached reading aloud with my kids. I can’t recommend them enough.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks for coming on this journey with us!

These links are affiliate links. If you wish to purchase from your local bookstore, please do so, or you can order online from Parnassus Books.

Learning into Light

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Hi friends,

Thank you for following along and for your encouragement. I wanted to update you that I’ve changed the name of the site and the corresponding account on Instagram, etc. So that’s why you’ll see Learning into Light now instead of Scuola a Casa.

Learning into Light just seemed to better illustrate the themes that are coming from this ongoing reflection of our family’s journey (and it’s a little easier to type and share!).

For me, so much of learning is about light. It helps me shine a light on my own biases and basic lack of knowledge about so much in the world. At the same time it shines a light on others’ experiences, other cultures, other worlds previously unknown to me.

Learning is a 🔦 that uncovers mysteries in the dark and also shows me when I’m way off the path. It’s a lot bigger than what happens in a one room schoolhouse! Learning is everywhere in everything.

I also believe that the more I learn, the more I love. And that helps me become more of the light I want to be in the world.

Thanks for coming along and being curious about learning that can lead us into….and turn us into…light. ✨

 

Young Readers’ Book Series with Diverse Characters

One of our resolutions for 2020 is to explore more great literature (for ourselves and our children) that features characters of color, diverse socioeconomic and geographic situations, and even books that weren’t primarily written in English.

I’m making sure my own TBR pile is stocked with diverse authors and books in translation (I finished 2019 with Jacqueline Woodson’s Red at the Bone and started this year off with Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, a graphic novel about her life, which was outstanding).

When it comes to kids, they pretty naturally seek out diverse literature which is so awesome. They’re very curious about characters that don’t look just like them and places they’ve never been to. It’s just a matter of us not stifling their curiosity about the world.

Here are a few of our recent favorites featuring non-white or non-American heroes and heroines.

Zapato Power, series by Jacqueline Jules

One of my boys’ (5yo and 7yo) favorite series they picked up at the library recently. Freddie Ramos is Latino and just an all-around great kid (which makes him a superhero in my eyes!). He lives with his mom because his dad was a soldier who was killed in action. I love how the author treats this difficult theme so well, and I love how she paints real-life, everyday issues that Freddie and his mom face (like how his mom is busy working during the week so they often have microwave frozen meals…very relatable.)



Anna Hibiscus
, series by Atinuke

This is such a sweet series about a young girl growing up in Africa. I love the descriptions of the places in the stories as well as the descriptions of Anna’s extended family and her relationship with them. The author has another series (listed below) that we haven’t checked out yet, but it looks wonderful, too.


Yasmin, series by Saadia Faruqi

We recently binged on these from the public library, and finished the whole series. They’re great simple read alouds for the 3-4yo group and first books for those just starting to read. I love the characters, the simple but meaningful story lines, and I really love that there is a glossary of Urdu words with each book that gives definitions for terms like hijab, kameez, salaam, and more. There are also facts about Pakistan and an activity at the end of each book.


Now here are some that are on our family’s TBR list!

Ruby and the Booker Boys, series by Derrick Barnes

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel, series by Nikki Grimes

Ling and Ting, series by Grace Lin

The No.1 Car Spotter, series by Atinuke

The Precious Ramotswe Mysteries, by Alexander McCall Smith

Rickshaw Girl, by Mitali Perkins (not a series, but looks great)

I’m still looking for more series or readers with Native American themes and characters, as well as more series featuring characters from Europe, Russia, Australia and the Middle East. I know they’re out there!

 

**These links are Amazon affiliate links. You can also purchase from your local independent bookstore 🙌🏻 or mine which is Parnassus Books.

Milton? For Five Year-olds?

I didn’t even like Milton as a 35 year-old. I’m still not sure I like Milton. But recently, in our curriculum from A Gentle Feast (which is wonderful, by the way) we have been given some Milton poems to read aloud together. “At a Solemn Music” was one of the first ones, and it was one I had never read before.

I did my homework like a good teacher and “pre-read” this poem the night before, and I have to be honest, I was like, “What? No way.” I didn’t think there was any chance my five and seven year-old would get anything out of this one. I wasn’t even sure that I would.

But then came school time, and I was out of other ideas, so I went for it with the poem. Trust the poetry, I thought. I gave them some bells to ring every time they heard a word that made them think of music (If nothing else, this will keep them from being bored to tears while I read this.)

Surprisingly, my five year-old and seven year old boys listened through the whole way, ringing their bells with great gusto. Ok, I thought, well that’s easy enough…pretty much every other word is about music.

But then, just for the heck of it, I asked them what they got from the poem (not expecting much more than how fun it was go get to ring bells in the house), and my seven year-old said, “Well, when sin entered the world, the beautiful music stopped because people were separated from God.”

Ok. School dismissed 🎤

Trust the poetry.

{{P.S. here are some of my favorite children’s poetry anthologies}}

 

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Favorite Books for Early Readers (that aren’t Dog Man)

List time again! I thought I’d post some of our favorites for early readers – kids who are just starting to read on their own, and want something more than picture books and easy readers, but aren’t ready for full-fledged juvenile fiction chapter books.

(And, nothing against Dog Man at all. We’ve read it. I just think it’s funny that every parent who asks me for recs for this group always adds ‘…but not Dog Man.’)

This is a tricky group of readers because kids can vary so greatly in age at this stage in the game…some kids are reading longer books comfortably by 5, others not until they’re 9. And that is OK. I am learning that it’s important to not get caught up in ‘level’ but to look more at what your kids will be comfortable reading (ability) and what they’ll enjoy reading (affinity).

Even these suggestions are all over the map in terms of what may fit your kid(s), so I highly recommend taking a look at them in the library first.

Zita the Spacegirl Trilogy, by Ben Hatke


For kids that really love a graphic novel series (ahem, Dog Man). I like this one because we love all things outer space and a strong heroine. Type is kind of small (and more like handwriting), just so you know.



The Bad Guys
, by Aaron Blabey


Fun fun fun. Another quality graphic novel series. Highly engaging and I’ve gotten great feedback on these when I’ve recommended them to friends.



Narwhal and Jelly
(series), by Ben Clanton

These are simple and sweet with great humor. There are four total in the series now and I love all of them! They make me laugh.



Princess in Black
, by Shannon and Dean Hale

We’ve checked ALL of these out at the library, and at first I kind of rolled my eyes at a blonde princess with a unicorn named “Frimplepants,” but now I totally get it. They’re fun for early readers, boys and girls alike, but my three year old daughter really enjoys them read aloud by her brother. And the boys get a kick out of the subtle humor (“Twinkle, twinkle, little — SMASH!”).



Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot
(series), by Dav Pilkey

Well, it’s not Dog Man, but this is the one series by Dav Pilkey on this list. I’m not even sure how many there are of the Mighty Robot series now (at least nine? we’ve only gone through #4). So here’s an option to keep those Dog Man lovers busy. These are ‘easier’ than Dog Man (and much shorter).

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Dory Fantasmagory (series), by Abby Hanlon


These are longer books but still manageable, and highly enjoyable! if your child is ready for them.



Zoey and Sassafras
, by Asia Citro


Here’s a neat series that I had never heard of until a couple of weeks ago. An awesome heroine who is not white, tons of scientific elements, and really positive messages.



Dragon Masters
, by Tracey West

An enormous series (are there 14 of these? 15?) of short simple books about a dragon, a king, a wizard and an 8 year-old boy named Drake. From Scholastic’s Branches collection. We are really into dragons at our house right now!

There are so many more that I feel like could be on this list – I could just keep adding to it! There are also so many that I’ve heard a lot about and just haven’t read yet (Ivy and Bean, The Infamous Ratsos, Kung Pow Chicken, etc.). Seems like I’ll need to do a follow up to this as we keep reading more and more at our house (we’ve just started).

 



** Links are affiliate links. To buy local
(🙌🏼) you can purchase from Parnassus Books or your nearest bookstore. Thanks!**

Why Homeschool?

Hi! And welcome. In case you’re wondering, scuola a casa means “school at home” in Italian. When my husband and I were talking about potentially homeschooling we’d use this code word ☺️. Seems totally silly now, but the term has kind of stuck, and we still often refer to what we’re doing as scuola. As in, “Time to do some scuola now.” 

A few people have asked us why we are homeschooling. Well, I certainly didn’t always think we would homeschool, and we may not always do it, but so far we’re really enjoying it.

There are lots of reasons we love it, but there is one thing that is not the reason we homeschool.

Nowhere in our decision did we think, “we don’t like schools, and don’t want our kids in school.” 

Nope. I actually love schools. I went to many. My parents were pretty worried that I might just keep finding schools to go to (I still think about it).

Pre-school
Elementary School
Middle School
High School
University
Medical School

Lots of school!

So, home education, for me, was not inspired by disliking or disagreeing with traditional education, but rather my deep love of learning. And, I wanted to try something different, have a little adventure, spend more time learning about my kids, have the flexibility to travel (take them with us!), etc.

But whatever your feelings about home education, there are a lot of interesting ideas in this stack. These were some of the reads or influences that helped me in our decision to homeschool. 

I’ll link them all below to Amazon (affiliate links). If you don’t want to buy from Amazon, order here from Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN or from your local bookstore 🙌🏼.

Teaching as a Subversive Activity, by Neil Postman

Maybe one of the most important books I’ve ever read on the subject of education. It changed me. Whatever your thoughts are on education (school, home, whatever) I think it would be hard to not be affected by this read.



The single most influential non-book work that I’ve encountered on this journey would be
Sir Kenneth Robinson’s TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity?

This is one of the most (if not the most) watched TED talks, which tells me this must be an interesting (or really, really controversial) subject for a lot of folks. I have watched this one many times.



A modern take on homeschooling, and specifically, allowing our children to reclaim childhood – to be Wild and Free – is this one:

A great read for anyone who is currently homeschooling (needs encouragement) or thinking about homeschooling (needs encouragement). I went to the Wild + Free conference this year in Franklin, TN and wrote some thoughts from my time there.  



Then, as I got more into the homeschool idea, I started to read books like these, books more on the process, the how-to of homeschooling, and I found them completely fascinating. I haven’t ascribed to just one methodology or philosophy. I’ve found them all really interesting and I’ve taken cues from each one (why I’m not abandoning Latin and cursive just yet).


The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise – classical education approach

Home Learning Year by Year, by Rebecca Rupp – because I felt like I needed a book that would help me answer naive questions like, “What are first graders supposed to know by the end of first grade?”

 

Uncovering the Logic of English, by Denise Eide – because learning English is HARD, and I needed someone to explain it to me before trying to explain it to my kids

Home Education, by Charlotte Mason – In all honesty, I’ve only read snippets of Charlotte’s  six volumes. I have them all though, and I hope to make my way through someday. She’s probably my biggest inspiration and her approach is closest to what our little scuola looks like.

The Global Student, by Maya Frost – books like this one have really helped me challenge my assumptions about what is ‘normal’ and ‘expected’ when it comes to one’s educational journey, especially the road to college.

 

The Unschooling Handbook, by Mary Griffith – I’m really into the idea of what people call ‘unschooling.’ To me, it’s just learning from life, and that feels a lot like what we’re doing.  I really like this Australian mom‘s insights on unschooling and this book by another author is one that I read early on when my kids were still tiny.

 



The Brave Learner, by Julie Bogart – I just love everything Julie does (her Instagram is FULL of great encouragement and really practical tips), and I especially love the idea of finding the ‘everyday magic in homeschool, learning and life.”





Finally, I’ve encountered really smart, really amazing people on this journey that have encouraged me even more. People who are inspired by learning, just like I am.

Two really smart, really well-read former homeschool moms have an amazing podcast called The Literary Life. It has been so great to listen to this and feel like I’m going back to school myself. These women, Angelina Stanford and Cindy Rollins, have confirmed for me that homeschooling does NOT mean subjugating yourself to your kids education. It means opening yourself up to an even fuller and deeper education for yourself that you embark on with your kids.

If you love literature, if you would love to be in a book club but just can’t make time for it, I highly recommend their podcast. 



There are so many more people/reads I could talk about. Sarah McKenzie and her Read Aloud Revival is one (but I’ve mentioned her in-depth in an earlier post).

I also acknowledge that homeschooling/worldschooling/unschooling is not for everyone. Some people have really strong thoughts about why we should not pursue this type of education for our kids (believe me, they’ve told me so!). But homeschooling, for me, is pretty simple. It just means learning alongside my kids. So far it’s working well for us. Maybe not forever, but who knows? We’re taking it one year at a time. I really think that’s all you can do.

Happy learning! whatever “school” you find yourself a part of today…

Enchanting Egypt

I never get tired of ancient Egypt. I don’t think I got enough of it as a kid, so getting to go back there with my children is so much fun.

In the various curricula we use for school, there are lots of good resources on Egypt, but I wanted to share a few extras which have really added to our fun with this subject.

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Here are some we thoroughly enjoyed…for your travels through Ancient Egypt:

(Pictures are affiliate links. You can also purchase through your local bookstore or at Parnassus Books)

Hieroglyphics, by Joyce Milton

This is not only a great little book about Egyptian life, but it also comes with a hieroglyphics stencil. My kids really really loved writing messages for each other in this beautiful form of writing.


Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht, by Richard Platt

A great ‘living book’ about Ancient Egypt in which the author follows an aspiring scribe on his adventures. It really brings to life the time period with colorful characters. Platt also has another book like this that’s wonderful, for the Roman period, called Roman Diary: The Journal of Iliona of Mytilini.


Tales of Ancient Egypt,  by Roger Lancelyn Green

My kids are really interested in Greek mythology, but I was kind of wondering if it was too much to introduce them to a whole other civilization’s mythology at such young ages. They LOVED it. And, the differences and similarities in the Egyptian stories compared to ancient Greece was really interesting for me. I had never delved so far into Egyptian mythology as I have with my young kids. What a joy to discover this interesting world with them!


Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile, by Tomie dePaola

A super fun one that we read long before our studies on ancient Egypt. And who doesn’t absolutely love anything Tomie dePaola has done!? This one will make you smile, and there are some great Egyptian words in here, even for the smallest learners.


Cleopatra, by Diane Stanley

 

One of my favorite books I’ve read about Cleopatra…ok, maybe the only book I’ve read about her. She and Cesar and Antony were always a little confusing to me…like, how did that all happen, again? It was nice to have a beautifully illustrated simple account of the whole drama. And, not too much for my five and seven year old. They followed right along (you may want to edit a little on the fly, depending on what your kids are comfortable with). A great end for your Egyptian studies since Cleopatra was, basically, the end of the empire.
Oh there are so many more. Can’t wait to explore some new books on Egypt when we get around to this subject the next time!

The Four Seasons

Let’s talk about Vivaldi! He’s a new found love for me, all brought about by one children’s book.

Ever since I read I, Vivaldi, by Janice Shefelman, I think about the close-call/alternate universe in which Vivaldi died at birth and we never got to hear his music.

There was an earthquake in Venice on the day he was born and it’s also thought he was gravely ill at the start of life. Either way, he was baptized immediately after birth (not usually done) and his mother dedicated him to the priesthood if he survived.

Lucky for us, he survived and he wasn’t that into being a priest. He found a way to compose the amazing music that played continuously in his head — his first orchestra was a group of orphaned girls whom he taught to play his magnificent work.

Anyway, when I read this children’s book (which I just randomly picked up at the library for my kids) it changed my life. I had never known much about Vivaldi, and now I was curious and I started listening to The Four Seasons all the way through and crying.

All of a sudden I recognized “Winter” as the opening theme music for Chef’s Table. I realized I’d heard “Spring,” “Autumn,” and “Summer” as well, from movies or from life. But I had never known before that they were connected to the same person, much less the same piece of work.

Maybe this is something that other people learned at some point, but for me, it was a breakthrough, brought about by a children’s book that gave me one of the greatest musical gifts of my adult life.

I’m a “Summer” person. Which are you?

Speaking of people who have heavenly music playing in their heads! Another artist from the past that I’ve been introduced to since homeschooling (thanks to curriculum ideas from A Gentle Feast) is Hildegard von Bingen. This is a woman from the Middle Ages (1098-1179!! to be precise) who was a nun, writer, artist, activist, musician, and more.

Here’s the children’s book that gave us more insight into her incredible story/life. I highly recommend listening to a bit of Hilde, as we call her now ☺️ and just letting it sink in that  her music is still as timeless and transcendent as it was 800+ years ago.



Listen here: Luka Sulic’s
The Four Seasons on Spotify. He’s the best I’ve found doing The Four Seasons. Turn it up very loud or have it on softly in the background while you read by the fire. 🔥

Listen here: Hildegard von Bingen (various artists) on Spotify. Turn this on shuffle when you want to relax and get a little bit of heaven, too.

Book links are affiliate links.

For the Love of Bugs 🐛

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One of the best things about ‘doing school’ at home is discovering things together with my kids. In fact, many days don’t feel like we’re doing school at all, but rather just living life with curiosity and wonder.

I keep the word Explore in the window of our dining room where we spend a lot of time, and it’s such a good reminder. Exploring is a better description of what we’re doing on a daily basis than schooling. And isn’t that true for many of us throughout our lives?

Here’s an example of where our exploring took us one day. I love that it was no where on a syllabus or even in my plans, but it’s one of the more memorable ‘lessons’ we’ve had this year.

** Links are affiliate links. To buy local 🙌🏼 you can purchase from Parnassus Books or your nearest bookstore. Thanks!**

I.

Here is how it started. I was reading this book to my kids one day:

 

It’s called Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. (Note: There is also one for Women in Art and Women in Sports). It’s a great book in itself, but this particular day it led us on a fun discovery.

II.

We got to the biography of a woman named Maria Sibylla Merian whom I had never heard of before in my life. Born in Germany in 1647, she studied and chronicled the life cycles of bugs and butterflies. And she did so in some of the most incredibly beautiful, exquisitely detailed drawings that had/have ever been seen.

She even financed her own voyage to South America – in her fifties – to further her studies (and took her daughter with her – love that!), way before Darwin, and at a time when the field was dominated by men.

My kids were fascinated by her story, and so was I.

III.

We went to the internet to see if there are any video biographies of this woman. There are. Here’s one. We watched it twice. (I also recommend this article from the Atlantic that I found later).

IV.

Then I searched for a used copy of her most famous book while my kids were in the yard with a bug box trying to catch (and observe, but not keep) as many things as possible:

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V.

The book arrived a few days later, and we spent a good chunk of the day looking through Merian’s gorgeous drawings like this one:

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The book still sits in our dining room  (probably freaking out our guests). It gives me a lot of joy, not only in its beauty, but also in the story of how it got to our table, which is the story of where our curiosity took us together one day.

It’s fun to think about people who will randomly discover one of Merian’s books in a used bookstore, or maybe on their own coffee table collection and will take the same journey of discovery in the opposite direction that we did to learn about a scientist who really really loved bugs.

My life is so much richer for knowing who this woman is. I feel like, in some small way, our little family going on this journey is also acknowledging her journey as a woman scientist and giving that the weight it deserves.

I love learning. I love that it gives me a deeper connection with my kids. I love that it connects us to the past in a beautiful web of all the things that others have learned before us. And I love that there is so much left to be explored.

Longer Read Alouds for Littles

I was making a list of suggestions for easy, engaging chapter books for our teachers at preschool to read aloud to friends ages 4-5, so I included it here for everyone. Good bedtime or dinnertime reading!

I’d love to hear from you in the comments what you would add to the list. Were any of these favorites as a child? Or as an adult?

** Links are affiliate links. To buy local (🙌🏼) you can purchase from Parnassus Books or your nearest bookstore. Thanks!**


Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book, Howard R. Garis

My kids have loved reading these for bedtime stories. They never let me stop at just one, though, so be warned. Uncle Wiggily tales date back to 1910, so occasionally you’ll encounter some outdated language or social constructs (for example, Wiggily’s muskrat lady housekeeper does a lot for him that he should probably figure out for himself 🙄), but these stories are a true joy.


Mercy Watson Series, Kate DiCamillo

How can anyone not love a book with the subtitle, Adventures of a Porcine Wonder? That’s all I have to say about this one.

When it comes to Kate DiCamillo, so many of her others are wonderful read aloud too, especially The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux.


Here’s a Penny, Carolyn Haywood

This one was a really fun surprise for me in our Kindergarten homeschool year. I learned about it from Sonlight’s book list. It has a really sweet treatment of a subject that is near and dear to our family’s heart (I won’t give anything away).


Capyboppy, Bill Peet

Here’s another one I learned about through Sonlight and we really enjoyed. I admit I didn’t know what a capybara was before I read this book.


Anna Hibiscus (series), Atinuke

This series is wonderful, and especially so because it takes place in Africa. They are short books and there are lots of them! We picked them up at our local library.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

I’ve been a fan of Roald Dahl’s writing since I was about seven, and I even wrote him a gushing letter telling him so (I never heard back, sadly). One of my greatest reading joys in life has been re-reading these as an adult with my kids. We just finished The BFG as a family (at dinnertime!) and Mark and I really enjoyed all of the humor I’m sure I missed as a child. Worth reading and re-reading ALL of his books, even if it’s just for you! We have this collection and are slowly making our way through them.


Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (trilogy), Grace Lin

Grace Lin is one of our favorite Chinese authors. We love everything she does. Her picture books for younger ones are wonderful (like Dim Sum for Everyone and Bringing in the New Year ), and this fantasy trilogy is great for all ages.


Milly Molly Mandy, Joyce Lankester Brisley

Another very oldie but goodie. Sweet stories for bedtime or anytime.


James Herriott’s Treasury for Children

This one is really more like a picture book of stories, but I cannot leave it out. We absolutely LOVED reading this at bedtime. Lovely tales from Herriot’s own experiences as a vet in England, beautiful illustrations.

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The Complete Brambly Hedge, Jill Barklem

This one has wonderful illustrations and makes for sweet reading, particularly with the younger crowd (4 and under) who enjoyed Peter Rabbit.


The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White

This is what we’re reading now. Even though I’ve read Charlotte’s Web a bunch of times   (as a kid and with my kids), I never read this one until just now. It’s wonderful. A little much for my 3 year old but 5 and 7 are really enjoying it read aloud at dinnertime or before bed.

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There are so many more! I left out some of the classics like Winnie the Pooh, Mr Popper’s Penguins, and Homer Price (and everything by Robert McCloskey), and many more.

What are your favorite longer books for the 4-5 age group?