Read to Your Kids, Part II, Read-Alouds for the Elementary Years

Welcome to the second installment of Read to Your Kids. Today’s focus is on a small handful of stories that my elementary-aged kids have loved. I read these books aloud to my family, and as is commonly the case, I observed that a wide range of ages was eager to hear more. That said, my age recommendation for the following stories is from age 4 to about age 10 – (and of course, younger siblings will pick up on some of the tales even if they don’t appear engaged).

The Swiss Family Robinson, abridged by Chris Tait  It’s very concise and the exciting descriptions held my kids’ attention for many chapters in a row.

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary We first read this story as part of my daughter’s homeschool curriculum well over a year ago, and my kids still laugh so hard every time we talk about Ramona riding her tricycle in the living room while playing harmonica…among a dozen other comical scenes!

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall On a whim, we grabbed this off the shelf at our library and were quickly hooked. Within a few pages, readers learn to love each of the four sisters and their quirky habits as they spend an unforgettable vacation trying to stay out of mischief at one of New England’s fanciest estates.

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks Our family was instantly engrossed with this plot. What will Omri do when he discovers that putting a boring plastic toy in an old cupboard and turning the key will transform the toy into reality? After getting an intimate look at the lives of a miniature Native American and an American cowboy, Omri needs to make a decision that will impact real lives. Will he keep his transformed toys living in isolation in his bedroom? Or will he lock them back in the cupboard to protect them?

Now, onto the scary topic which could cause some blood to boil over….is The Indian in the Cupboard a racist story? I didn’t think so. I don’t recall any hateful remarks meant to indoctrinate readers. Little Bear (the Iroquis) and Boone (the cowboy) work through disagreements and stereotypes, but all people of every race and gender need to do that. Quite honestly, I thought Omri’s final decision regarding the situation shows true integrity toward the transformed toys and the races they represent. The whole plot provides many opportunities for discussion with your kids about how to treat people. As with any literature, you may choose to censor some of the words or phrases (my husband I did) for your family, but my family found the story to have lessons worth gleaning.

The Boxcar Children, No. 1 by Gertrude Chandler Warner One of my favorite aspects of this story is how well the siblings work together, how they are committed to keeping their family together and safe, and how kind they are to each other. My kids loved the adventures, and I appreciated the positive example of sibling-love.

Dolphin Adventure by Wayne Grover This true story of a diver who finds himself in a very unique position – to assist a dolphin family in removing a hook from the baby’s tail – will captivate readers. How do animals communicate with people? What happens when a shark detects food from this unlikely group? Will the dolphin family remember Wayne as he dives around the area? Find out in this exciting story. Don’t miss the sequel, Dolphin Treasure. The third, Dolphin Freedom, was also compelling, but a little more frightening than the first two, due to the fact that Wayne and Baby (the dolphin) come face-to-face with poachers.

A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman How will peasant Pong Lo marry a princess? They love each other, but the emperor will not allow his daughter to marry a peasant farmer. When the peasant saves the princess’s life, the reward he requests is a single grain of rice that will double every day for 100 days. A story of cleverness and wisdom, this is one your family is sure to enjoy.

As always, I love to read your positive comments and suggestions below.


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