Raising Star Readers is grateful to have regular reminders from Anita Dualeh’s Reading Team that reading aloud isn’t an activity reserved only for families with small children. Instead, sharing and talking about books as you read them aloud together is something a family can grow into (the books grow in length as the kids themselves grow both in age and understanding). Here, Anita highlights some of the lengthier titles that have helped keep her Reading Team engaged during the pandemic:
In the past several months, we’ve been enjoying some longer narratives which have proven satisfying opportunities to lose ourselves in a book. We read Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer together, and then Caleb talked us into reading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn once he learned that the same characters were in that book. I was thinking it might be above my ten- and thirteen-year-olds, but I came across a copy of Huckleberry Finn in a Little Free Library in our neighborhood and thought we may as well give it a try. As we pressed on even through the irreverent, racially offensive, and dull passages in the book, we found a whole lot to discuss.
At the recommendation of a friend, we read on to Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Could we finish this 590-page novel without getting bogged down? Caleb and I were more easily pulled into the story, but Adam began to protest whenever I picked up the book. “Shall we move on to something else?” I asked. He thought we should, but Caleb didn’t agree. I suggested we stick it out for another hundred pages. We did, and by that time, the narrative had shifted to another setting with different characters. Adam found it a little more engaging. By the time a third set of characters were introduced, we were all invested in the book and wanted to find out how the seemingly separate stories would tie together. We finished Echo in a little over a month and felt a sense of accomplishment when arriving at a very satisfying ending. It has been our longest book read together to date.
After that we read a short, fun novel by Richard Peck (The Teacher’s Funeral), before moving on to a 496-pager, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart. We hit a few patches with rather extensive description. At one point we all felt the story seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace, but again we persisted. As the action picked up, we were glad we’d stuck it out. Caleb wanted to continue with the next book in the Nicholas Benedict series, but I pulled out a different book next, one I hadn’t yet realized was a part of a series.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry proved to be captivating to all of us. We were transported to the state of Mississippi during the Great Depression to experience the world as Cassie Logan saw it. Author Mildred D. Taylor does not sugar-coat the racial injustice of that period, and more than once we were incensed by the words or actions of the white landowners.
We were drawn in by Taylor’s expert storytelling and grew to like the protagonist and her family so much that we all wanted the story to continue. And it does, we discovered, in Let the Circle be Unbroken, which we read right after. Now, we have The Road to Memphis checked out of the library and are about to begin our third book narrated by Cassie.
But not all of our book selections have been on target. I started reading Blizzard! by Jim Murphy as Christmas break was about to begin. After a few days, before we were even halfway through this nonfiction book about “the storm that changed America,” Adam said that was enough. “It’s the same thing again and again,” he complained. I couldn’t argue, so I let him off the hook. Still, I found the verbal snapshots of urban and rural life in 1888 interesting and I wanted to read to the end. Caleb was a willing audience and so he and I finished it over the next few days on our own. (It wasn’t a particularly long book, but it was one of the longest nonfiction books I’ve read aloud.)
With all of us at home nearly all the time, we have been thankful for good books, which have given us many places to go while in-person travel plans have been put on hold. I’ve also been thankful for my Reading Team with whom I’ve been able to share so many more literary adventures due to the amount of time we have together these days. Reading aloud has become a well-entrenched daily habit, and when there’s a lull in the weekend or the evening, it’s become commonplace for me to hear, “Mom, can you read now?”
I once spent time with a family that had kids in high school and college, and they still enjoyed read-alouds every Monday evening after family dinner, for which everyone made a point to be home. I think I’d consider it a success if my family could follow in their footsteps. I think we may be well on our way to that goal.
Bookology is always looking for new Reading Teams to help us celebrate the joys of reading aloud together. Contact Lisa Bullard for further information if you’re interested in participating.