Book Review: The Read-Aloud Family
Reading bedtime stories is something that parents just do, right? My mom read to us, my grandma read to us, and I had collected my own pile of picture books long before my first child was born. But Sarah Mackenzie takes it a step further in her phenomenal book, The Read-Aloud Family. Reading aloud is a way to build meaningful and lasting connections with our children. She says, "When my head hits the pillow each night, I want to know that I have done the one most important thing: I have fostered warm, happy memories and created lifelong bonds with my kids--even when the rest of life feels hard."
I am already a fan of Sarah's podcast The Read-Aloud Revival so I was eager to get my hands on her new book. Packed with over 400 read-aloud recommendations, conveniently arranged by age, this book is a treasure.
The first section of the book is an inspirational pep talk on reading aloud. Sarah builds quite a case for reading aloud, not only with toddlers, but especially when our children are able to read on their own. Reading stories can inspire children to be heroic and courageous, hearing language spoken aloud can increase children's academic success, and living alongside book characters can increase empathy and compassion for others. "We read with our children because it gives both them and us an education of the heart and mind. Of intellect and empathy. We read together and learn because stories teach us how to love."
In the second section of the book, Sarah gets into the nitty-gritties of making read-aloud time work-- what to do if you have a range of ages, ideas for keeping little hands busy. I'm especially intrigued with her list of ten open-ended questions that you can ask about any book. They are not meant to be used to find out if the child was paying attention, but rather to open the door to more conversation and connection. Sarah says, "The stories we read together act as a bridge when we can't seem to find another way to connect. They are our currency, our language, our family culture. The words and stories we share become a part of our family identity."
The third section of the book is a booklist with recommendations for every age, up through teens, as well as additional resources for parents.
Worried you don't have time for all the reading aloud? Sarah encourages parents to start small. Even ten minutes a day, or every other day, can have a positive impact on your children. And the good news is audio books count too. If you're taking a road trip this summer, pick out an audio book at the library, or sign up for a free trial of Audible to get two audio books that are yours to keep.
You can find your own copy of The Read-Aloud Family here.