Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Read-Alouds to a 7-Year-Old (and an Excuse for Me to Fill in My Kidlit Gaps!)

I feel so lucky that my daughter still likes me to read aloud to her, although there are more and more evenings when she chooses to skip it and read alone.  We recently read Understood Betsy, an old classic that I had never read myself (but which I found mentioned in the Ramona books).  It is the story of the blossoming Elizabeth Ann who has lived a very sheltered life until now, cared for by her overprotective, overly anxious Aunt Frances, who projects all of her anxieties onto Elizabeth Ann.  When Aunt Frances must leave her with relatives at a Vermont farm so she can care for her ill mother, Elizabeth Ann (whom the Putney relatives immediately and familiarly address as Betsy), discovers that she is neither nervous nor frail.  New experiences, including the simplest of tasks such as getting out of bed on her own, as well as others such as making butter, cooking potatoes, walking to school not only alone but on her very first day!, and becoming a kind of mentor to a younger friend, push her to become more independent.  To her surprise, she not only finds these experiences empowering but actually fun.  The girl Aunt Frances comes back to retrieve is a very different one from the one she left.  I found the story line a little obvious but my daughter loved it and it was an enjoyable read for both of us.  The edition we read was illustrated by author-illustrator Martha Alexander, whom I love.  She chose to illustrate it because she herself loved this book as a young girl.

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper was another big hit with my daughter.  Don't say I didn't warn you - have a box of tissues at the ready!  Narrated by an 11-year-old-girl with such severe cerebral palsy that she cannot walk, feed herself or even talk, I cried so hard at times that my daughter had to take over the reading!  When technology enables Melody to "speak," everyone but her parents, a close family friend, and her school aide, are shocked at her smarts.  As she says, cerebral palsy "limits [her] body but not [her] mind.  In addition to her physical challenges, Melody has to navigate "mean girls" and bullying, and, as such, this book could be paired with Wonder.  However, this one could have benefited from a little editing; it is unnecessarily long and a subplot involving Melody's sister seems irrelevant.  The strength and love of Melody's parents is simply heartrending though, as is Melody's own strength.  There is no truly happy ending for Melody, though; she will always have to struggle with her severe physical disabilties.

We're currently in the middle of The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, another book I somehow missed out on in what I thought was a well-read childhood.  I love how the descriptions of the Times Square subway station are timeless.  However, I suspect my daughter's lack of interest in this one is one of the reasons she's been choosing to skip our read-alouds more frequently as of late.

What books have you been reading aloud to your 7-8-year-olds?


  1. My 8 year old and I are in the middle of book 7 of the Sisters Grimm now. I'm really enjoying the series and she loves it! My older daughter read the series to herself, so I missed out on it, but this time I get to enjoy it too!

  2. Eleanor Estes is a good fit for that age; we went through several of those books. We also did some series books (my boys were into Pokemon) which weren't much fun for me but did help me learn to recognize more Pokemon. Their dad read the Narnia books aloud at about this age. Oh, also The Hobbit. I loved The Gammage Cup but only one of my kids agreed with me.

    This might be a good time for The Thief by Megan Whelan Turner. You should go ahead and read the rest of the series, but they are more YA; my youngest loved the thief when he was eight and I just gave him the second book now that he's almost 12.

  3. I remember reading some books by Jean Little with my mom when I was little--Mine For Keeps and Spring Begins In March go together, and From Anna and Listen For The Singing go together. Sadly they seem to be out of print but there are plenty of cheap copies on Amazon and I imagine they're still in libraries. Coincidentally, Mine For Keeps features a protagonist with CP (also in that vein: Karen by Marie Killilea is a real-life story about a girl with CP. I wrote a lot of school reports on that condition growing up as a result of reading those books.)

    And then my favorite old-timey ones: Anne of Green Gables, Caddie Woodlawn, the Betsy-Tacy books, anything by Carolyn Haywood, and my very very favorite, A Little Princess. And if you liked Ramona, Beverly Cleary has some other great books (Ellen Tebbits, Emily's Runaway Imagination, Mitch and Amy, and the Mouse and the Motorcycle books were my favorites, as well as her autobiography A Girl From Yamhill.)

    Oh! And Roald Dahl!!! My favorite was always Matilda.

    I can't wait till I have kids that age to read aloud to! Love those books!

  4. Thanks for the suggsestions, Mrs. S! A friend mentioned Jean Little and I don't think I ever read any of those. I have to look them up. But that book about Karen sounds awfully familiar. I think I read it.

    I've read the first 4 Betsy-Tacy books to her, the B is for Betsy books, and Ramona, and she's read most of the other Beverly Cleary books to herself.

    She's terrified of Roald Dahl and I find him creepy so I'm glad I don't have to read his books aloud.:-)

    I love Anne and Caddie Woodlawn... I think she's not quite ready for them, but soon.

  5. Thanks, Meredith and Beth! She is very easily scared so no fantasy/sci-fi/mysteries, etc. I tried rereading Ginger Pye and found it so boring! I was so disappointed as I remember loving them as a child. So I think I'd rather she read the Eleanor Estes books on her own!

  6. I absolutely loved the Ramona books growing up--I'm pretty sure I read each one multiple times. In fact, Ramona and Beezus was my very first chapter book. I'm very interested in the book Out of My Mind. My sister has CP, although not anywhere near as severe as the girl in the book. But, it never ceases to amaze me the assumptions people can make based on that. I haven't read Wonder yet, but it's on my list as well. It sounds like you're right, they would be a great pairing.