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Suzanne's Ultimate Reading List

On reading aloud to your children

Why read aloud?

There has recently been a report on new research looking at what happens in a child's brain when it is listening to something and when it is watching something, such as an educational DVD. What they have discovered is that watching is a very passive activity for the brain, whereas when a child is read to, they have to supply the images for themselves, using far more of the brain. Reading a story aloud to your child is a brain workout! Not only this, but by sitting and listening to a story a child is developing habits of being still and paying attention, they develop their comprehension skills and increase their vocabulary effortlessly. They start to take in the subtlety and nuance of language, and will hopefully develop a love of books which will carry on when they are able to tackle these books and others on their own. When a child is learning to read they focus so much on the mechanics of what they are doing that they cannot enjoy the story or the language being used. When someone reads to them they sit back and enjoy the ride!

How to read aloud.

A good book needs to be read well. Try to use as much expression as you can when reading as this helps the child to access the story. If characters are arguing with raised voices, feel free to shout, or if they are hushed with fear, whisper. Make up voices for the characters I am terrible at accents but my children assure me it adds to the humour, so I try anyway! Older siblings can read out loud too, but only if they are able to read with fluency and meaning. As you read, don't worry too much about whether or not they are understanding every word and every detail. They will take from the book whatever they can and as they mature they will take more and more. Feel free to answer questions and discuss the books as much as your child wants, but resist the temptation to quiz them or to ask anything more from them than to listen. This is for their enjoyment, and hopefully to instil in them a love for the written word.

What to read.

I have broken this list into four groups. The first are the most accessible books and a great starting point, particularly for a child who struggles to stay focussed. They have wonderful characters and great writing, but are perhaps less complex and use language that is clear and understandable.

The second group is for children who are used to hearing text read out to them and can concentrate for longer. The language might be more old-fashioned, or the plot more complicated, but I have chosen books which come highly recommended, not just by me, but by many academics and educationalists.

The third list is really for older children, and the final one for teens. I have included these as many of the children have older siblings who might like to try some of these to read on their own, and just for future reference. With all of the books, try them for a few days and if they really aren't working out, then abandon it or no-one will enjoy themselves, and try something else. I have tried to include many types of stories so that there will be something for everyone. I have also tried to only include books which I have enjoyed reading aloud to my own children, as there is nothing worse than slogging through a book which you yourself are not enjoying!

To see the reading lists, click the links at the foot of the page.