My boys are old enough to read to themselves. (And they do.)
But I keep reading to them too, because they keep asking me. Now and then I check in with, ‘Aren’t you guys too old for me to be reading to you?’ And there’s vehement protestation and ardent begging and threats of mutiny if I stop.
I know reading aloud isn’t everyone’s jam but it seems to soothe and connect us and it’s a brilliant excuse for hot drinks in bed and I’m happy to be my boys’ warm-bodied audiobook for as long as they want.
There’s heaps of research confirming the benefits of growing up with books. I’m not the home-schooler-ish type, but I do love getting to choose books that expand my kids’ worldview, and mine – books that allow us to question and feel and think and travel landscapes created by the words and experiences – actual and imagined – of other humans.
So in no particular order, here are the books my boys and I have loved living through together, over the past couple years:
- Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. Every Christian in the western world should read this book.
- The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. Cried my eyes out. Animals are simply magnificent.
- The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (young reader’s edition – minus the sex and the F-bombs). Can’t wait to see the movie!
- Indescribable by Louie Giglio. Devotional readings for kids on God and science.
- Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen L. Taylor (from John Bunyan’s classic). Poignant and gripping and even though it’s archaic, you’ll see yourself on every page.
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. ‘Nuff said.
- The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (young reader’s edition). I’ve mentioned this one before. Something about this triumph-of-the-underdog-Olympic-athletes story will stay with you forever.
- Soul Music by Terry Pratchett. Brilliant, as only Pratchett can be.
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (young reader’s edition). Louis Zamperini’s unbelievable story of survival and salvation. Left us seeing the world differently.
- Thunder Dog by Michael Hingson. The moving, enlightening true story of a blind man and his guide dog and how they made it out of the Towers on 9/11.
- The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (young reader’s edition). All goose bumps and God’s glory. Corrie’s account of her family’s resistance work hiding Jews during World War 2 and how she survived Ravensbrück concentration camp.
- The Accidental series by Tom McLaughlin (including The Accidental Prime Minister, The Accidental President, The Accidental Billionaire and The Accidental Secret Agent). Hysterically funny commentary on contemporary culture and politics, at appropriate kid level (i.e. with farting).
- Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. Classic.
- The Giants and Joneses by Julia Donaldson. I’ll read anything Donaldson writes, because reading The Snail and the Whale to my babies kinda-sorta changed my life.
- All things Enid Blyton (The Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair trilogies, the Famous Five series, the Adventure series, Shadow the Sheepdog et al.) There’s something wondrously old-school and timeless about these books. Plus, they provide a great opportunity to teach my 21st-century sons that, these days, boys also know how to make sandwiches, and girls also have good ideas…
- All things Dick King-Smith, like The Invisible Dog (very funny) and Lady Lollipop.
- I Dared to Call Him Father by Bilquis Sheikh. Fascinating and moving autobiography of a wealthy, landed Muslim woman who risks everything for Jesus.
- The Last Wild by Piers Torday. A weird dystopian novel about a boy who has to save the world. It somehow kept us reading because we absolutely had to know how it ended.
- The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. This is the series that will define Cameron’s childhood, the way Nancy Drew defined mine.
- Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. An English orphan is shipped to the Amazon to stay with a family who don’t want her. She triumphs.
If you’re looking for more recommendations, here are some books the boys have read to themselves:
- The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
- The Eddie Red series by Marcia Wells
- The Epic Zero series by R.L. Ullman
- Books by Michael Morpurgo: including War Horse, Shadow and Kensuke’s Kingdom
- More books by Roald Dahl: Fantastic Mr Fox, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, The Twits
- All the Things that Could Go Wrong by Stewart Foster
- Books by David Walliams: Gangsta Granny, The Midnight Gang, etc.
- The Jack Stalwart series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt
- The Boy Who Could Do What He Liked by David Baddiel
- The 13 (and several more) Storey Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
- The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhay by Patricia and Frederick McKissack
- I Swapped My Brother on the Internet by Jo Simmons
- Kid Normal by Greg James and Chris Smith
- Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
- The Math and Science Inspector series by Daniel Kenney and Emily Boever
- The Boy who Biked the World (trilogy) by Alastair Humphreys
- The Anne of Green Gables collection by Lucy Maud Montgomery
- Paper Boy by Vince Vawter
- The ‘I Survived’ series by Lauren Tarshis
- A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich
. . .
Happy weekend! I’d love to hear your recommendations.
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*HAPPY NEWS*: If you’re in South Africa, you can pre-order Traveling Light! And soon-soon-soon you can pre-order wherever you find yourself in the wider world.
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