When I started teaching, there was a book that was recommended to all new teachers--The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. The beginning of the book is really a treatise on why reading aloud matters. But, most homeschooling parents don't need to be convinced. The ones I know and have met have all believe reading aloud is a good and important thing to do. But, if you're looking for a book on why one should read aloud, The Read Aloud Handbook will explain why it is important and "how" to do it.
Most parents, like my husband and I, want to read aloud books to our children, but struggle at times coming up with books we want to read aloud--especially at the younger ages. So, we search. We look for lists of books for independent reading and we look for lists of books for read alouds. I live in a house of very avid readers so I am always on the lookout for new book lists!
One friend suggested that I check out a popular blog titled the Read Aloud Revival. It is written Sarah Mackenzie and some other young moms. I think it's kind of funny that it's called a revival--because school teachers have been reading aloud to children for decades, as have homeschool parents. Ms Mackenzie and her staff all have young children (age 12 or younger) and the book lists on her site clearly reflect this. There are very few true Middle School books in her lists or books for advanced readers. Her lists and blog are heavily bent towards younger children. I found her lists to be very narrow and with some big holes for all ages.
At about the same time, I read through the list The Classical Reader: A Comprehensive Reading Guide by Dr. Christopher Perrin. I took issue with this book (and wrote the lone 2 star review for it on Amazon). I didn't agree with the author's leveling of the books and felt that he had inaccurately leveled books on several occasions. I was also concerned that there was no modern realistic fiction included in the book. Surprisingly, Dickens' novels are considered realistic fiction by this author, though I would disagree and assert that they are now historical fiction. By high school, even in the classical model, students should be reading books that give them a well rounded understanding of the world we live in today.
Yet, in my searching of both this book, the Read Aloud Revival Website, and other lists on the web, I always simply looked for lists of books to read. I didn't separate books for reading aloud and independent reading. I had concluded that if one was good for one, then it must be good for the other. But, then I came across a book that specifically lists books good for reading aloud.
Nathaniel Bluedorn, one of the authors of The Fallacy Detective, wrote a book titled Hand that Rocks the Cradle: 400 Classic Books for Children. It is a list of the books his mom read to his siblings and him when he was growing up--with some additions by his brothers, sisters, and him. At the beginning of the book, he gives a very short explanation about the books included and what children gain from hearing stories. One interesting thing to not is that all of the books included in this list are fiction.
As I read through the list, I enjoyed reading the book descriptions and seeing what books were included. I found more than a few that I look forward to reading with our children in the future. As my husband and I discussed the list, I brought up a few that I thought were missing. My husband pointed out to me that he didn't think the books I mentioned would be good for reading aloud. I think this is because there are some books when savored and read alone, one can get lost in the book differently than when it is read aloud in the presence of others. It is a rare list that includes many books that I haven't heard of and I'll be honest, this book had several books that I'll be purchasing to read to my children. This was quite a pleasant surprise to me! The descriptions included made me curious about many of the books. I appreciated particularly that they were rated by age range at which they were appropriate. A simple, 1/2/3 system, not specific grade levels. Most families have multiple children and ages that they are reading to, so I think this would be very helpful. For personal reading, Honey for a Teen's Heart also rates books by both age and maturity level with similar guidelines. I have found this to be very helpful with my advanced readers.
This book is a welcome addition to our homeschooling reference books and is going to occupy a revered spot alongside my two faithful reference books by Gladys Hunt (Honey for a Child's Heart and Honey for a Teen's Heart). I love both of these books and they are two of essential books I'd recommend to homeschoolers because of the author's discussions of reading, book descriptions, and book lists. But, Hand that Rocks the Cradle: 400 Classic Books for Children is an important companion because reading aloud and reading independently are different!
Please note that I received a copy of this book from the author for review, but that these opinions are all my own.