For Reading Out Loud! by Margaret Mary Kimmel & Elizabeth Segel. Dell Publishing, 1983.
From the time our children were toddlers, nearly every evening until they were pre-teens and busy schedules interloped, our bedtime ritual included story time. Over the years, we enjoyed many, many good books, with everyone cuddled together on the living room chesterfield. When children are small, it is easy to choose books to read. You can pick up an armload of picture books at the library, and if some aren’t as wonderful as others, it matters little, as so little time is invested in their reading. As children reach their school years, however, and are ready to move on to chapter books, it can be harder to make a good choice of what to read. Whatever you choose will occupy you for a week or two of evenings and you want everyone to enjoy it! It’s helpful to find some guidance for suggested titles. Although I had a few different reading guides, and no doubt more have been published since my own kids grew up, I found the best place to start was For Reading Out Loud! The opening sections of the book discuss why continuing to read to post-toddler children is a good thing (I never needed convincing) and makes suggestions on fitting reading into the day. The bulk of the book is a recommended reading list. More than just recommendations, the authors devote a couple of pages to each title and give a suggested listening level that I found to be quite appropriate for my own children. The list includes titles you will recognize, such as Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. There’s a reason why these classic stories were adapted by Disney! The original is still worth the read. And there are many titles that were new to us, stories such as Leon Garfield’s Mister Corbett’s Ghost, Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting, Mollie Hunter’s A Stranger Came Ashore, and others that bring pleasure to both the reader and listener alike. For Reading Out Loud is readily available through online sources such as Amazon.ca or Chapters.Indigo.ca in their used book service, or from Abebooks.com. Below, a few sample titles from For Reading Out Loud are highlighted.
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Random House 1948.
A Toad for Tuesday by Russell Erickson. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1974.
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. Harper & Row, 1954.
My Father’s Dragon (Suggested listening level K-4) is a funny tall tale, told in ten short chapters, of the adventures of Elmer Elevator as he sets out to rescue a baby dragon being held captive on Wild Island. It is an excellent introduction to chapter books. There are a couple of sequels.
A Toad for Tuesday (Suggested listening level K-3) is the story of a toad called Warton, who sets out one sunny winter day to deliver a gift of beetle brittle to his old Aunt Toolia, and finds himself in a dire predicament when an owl captures him and holds him hostage, saving Warton to be a special treat on his birthday, next Tuesday. This warm, funny, exciting story is a personal favorite of mine. It can be read aloud in two or three sittings.
The Wheel of the School (Suggested listening level Gr. 2-4) is a nice book for easing into longer outings, with 298 pages divided into 15 chapters. It tells the story of a group of schoolchildren in a small Dutch fishing village who set out to find a wheel to place on the schoolhouse, a wheel that will bring nesting storks back to Shora. This 1955 Newbery Medal winner is dramatic and moving. Other great books by DeJong include Shadrack, about a pet rabbit, and Hurry Home Candy, about a lost little dog.
Red Fox by Charles G.D. Roberts. Puffin, 1972 (1905).
Fog Magic by Julia L. Sauer. Viking 1943.
Canadian entries include Owls in the Family by beloved curmudgeon Farley Mowet, and well-known children’s author Jean Little’s From Anna. Less well-known is Roberts’ Red Fox. Sir Charles G. D. Roberts is known as the Father of Canadian Poetry, and along with Ernest Thompson Seton, Roberts is credited with inventing the modern animal story. Red Fox is not a warm-fuzzy animal story, but rather a true-to-life account of a fox’s life. As such, it is full of adventure, trial and hardship. In the opening chapter, Red Fox’s sire is killed by dogs as he valiantly leads the hunt away from his mate’s den. Two of Red Fox’s siblings are lost to a lynx and to a goshawk before they are weaned, and a third dies after a foolish visit to a chicken coop. Red Fox, the strongest and cleverest, survives to find his own mate, who raises a litter of his offspring. He faces battles with mink and other wild hunters, discovers skunks and porcupines, and barely escapes a raging forest fire. The story closes with a wild flight as Red Fox runs for his life, pursued by a pack of hounds and red-coated riders. Set in the wilds of New Brunswick, this adventure tale is suggested for a listening level of Gr. 4-8.
Fog Magic (Suggested listening level Gr. 3-6) is set in Nova Scotia, where American Julia L. Sauer and her partner visited every year in the late 1930s and where they eventually purchased a cabin. The village of Little Valley in Fog Magic is based on Little River, Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, and Blue Cove is based on White’s Cove. Character names used in the book are derived from those of living persons. The story is set in the pre or early-World War II years. A young girl, Greta, finds that on foggy days she is able to travel back in history to a day when neighbouring Blue Cove, now just the site of empty basement holes, was a bustling community. The time she travels back to can be dated as the closing years of the 18th century, when Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (and future father of Queen Victoria) was stationed at Halifax.