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?