Listening children know stories are there. When their
elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one
to come out, like a mouse from its hole.
Children love to be told stories. Uplifting stories about people
who conquer challenges and do noble deedshistorical such as
Joan of Arc or fictional such as Luke Skywalkerthrill all
of us. But children, from the ages of 6-11, especially benefit from
such stories because they feel deeply the emotions of the story,
and they are looking for role models to imitate.
Think about heroes and heroines you would like your children to
identify with and imitate. The popular media does not offer many
examples of loving, brave, and noble characters, but in childrens
literature you can find them. Reading aloud such stories not only
encourages high aspirations, but also can be wonderfully bonding
for you as a family. Your involvement and physical closeness with
your kids during reading time draw them in completely.
How to Begin
When choosing books to read aloud always read the book first yourself
and be sure it inspires you! Remember, that for it to be an engaging
read-aloud, it must have a certain amount of action, suspense, or
entertaining dialog. You might choose a book that is not especially
spiritual but is exciting and thought provoking to build
a foundation for other stories you want to share.
If you havent read aloud much to your children, I would recommend
beginning with a book that has short chapters and lots of suspense
such as Bruce Covilles Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.
The Not-Just Anybody series by Betsy Byars is also good for
starters and has the advantage of both strong girl and boy characters.
My favorite is about friendship and seeing the good in everyone:
The Blossoms Meet the Vulture Lady.
Another book popular with both sexes is Shiloh. Phyllis
Reynolds story raises all sorts of ethical and moral questions.
(Is it ever okay to lie to protect someone else? How do we live
with pain and suffering in the world? What is our responsibility
to those we love?) Through the novel (unlike the movie) you and
your child will have time to explore them together. This one is
not for the very young, but is riveting for the 9-12 year
old, and would appeal to the novice listener.
A Favorite of All Ages
After you have developed the art of reading aloud and your child
has developed the art of listening, you can graduate to more challenging
books with longer chapters and more expanded vocabulary. Summer
of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls is one of my favorites. Its
a powerful, touching story with lots of humor. The ending is predictable
and a little sentimental but very satisfying for children between
the ages of 9 and 12.
Dont let the movie turn you off to this book: I have read
it and many others to at least six different classes of fourth through
sixth grades. Consistently when they have voted on their all-time
favorites at the end of the year, Summer of the Monkeys comes
up number one or two. I even had a nineteen-year-old whom I hadnt
seen in years, come up to me in a store and ask me out of the blue,
Remember when we read Summer of the Monkeys?
A little more New Agey (with its references to herbs,
and an earth-mother kind of character) is Monica Furlongs
Wise Child. It portrays a wonderful friendship between a
boy and a girl that does not turn romantic. It is especially popular
for girls in the 9-14 age group. One that appeals more to boys (ages
7-10) is Frances Hodgkin Burnetts The Lost Prince, but
it is a bit old-fashioned. Both of these are appropriate for the
For a little older child (12-15), there is a wonderful historical
novel called The Bronze Bow. In this story set in the time
of Christ, Elizabeth Speare, better known for her Newbery Award
winner, Witch of Blackbird Pond, brings alive the impact
Jesus might have had on several young people of his time.
Some of the classics featuring the battle between the forces of
good and evil make good read-alouds, or you can get recordings of
these classics and listen together. A good first one is The Lion,
the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. Tolkiens
Lord of the Rings series will capture the imaginations of older
Stories are a source of great enjoyment! They can also inspire feelings
of honor and nobility and expand our horizons from the particular
to the universal. Like nature (the topic of the last column), story
is a springboard to spirituality by opening a childs heart.
(For a more complete list of uplifting books for all ages, you can
e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Susan Dermond is the Director of the Living Wisdom School (K-5),
and a minister of Ananda Sangha. For more information about the
Living Wisdom School, call 503-626-3403.