Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reading at the breakfast table

If you call our house before 9:00 AM, you will probably be sent to voice mail. Sorry about that, but we are reading. We gather around the table and while I finish fixing breakfast or getting out the cereal boxes, Coty starts reading our current chapter book. I sit down and eat and then pull out my knitting. After the chapter book, we read the Bible and pray. We talk a little about prayer concerns and everyone prays. For the last year or so, we've been praying through our church directory. When we get to the end of the list, we start over again...but this post is not mainly about prayer, but about our chapter book reading.

One day last week, we finished A Tale of Two Cities. Over dinner on the deck that evening, we were talking about it and our discussion led to memories of other Dicken's novels we've read and then on to other books. I proposed starting a list. I grabbed paper and pen and began jotting down titles as fast as the boys mentioned them. The conversation lasted all evening. We moved from the deck to the screen porch and made phone calls to our two oldest, who are far away, to probe their memories. One recollection led to a string of others and the list grew. It continues to grow. I've been keeping it on the hutch in the kitchen and adding to it as we remember more titles. A word to the wise here - if you are a reading family, go now and buy a hard bound journal and start recording the books you read together. You will treasure that little record. I sure wish I'd done that long ago!

I am not including homeschool read-alouds in this list. This is simply the breakfast table list. These are the books that Coty reads to us. He is, in fact, the driving and sustaining force, the guardian of breakfast reading in our home. He eats early so he can read to us while we eat. And what a reader he is! We get accents, voices (he almost went hoarse doing Magwich from Great Expectations), and correct pronunciation of difficult words, unless they are French, and then Andrew helps out.

We have read novels, biographies, great literature and children's books. We have been encouraged, inspired, enlightened, and taught. We have learned history, geography, science, and even a little math. We 've had a few flops and a few books that we wondered if they would ever end...whew, glad that's over!

Mostly, we have grown as individuals and woven our lives together as a family with this reading. It was extremely precious the other night to hear the boys talking about the books - ones they loved and ones they didn't - and to hear someone say something like, "Oh, yeah, I remember that. I loved that book!" and to have five voices concur. Yes, this reading weaves our family fabric together tightly. You might not laugh if someone mocks anger and shouts "Guts!!" at you, but we will all chuckle because we know Ramona thinks its a bad word.

I could go on about how much better this has been for us than television, the computer, or even good movie adaptations of great books. I could tell you how much they have learned to think and how their imaginations have been nurtured by reading aloud. What in their mind's eye does Madame Defarge look like as she sits in the wine shop knitting? How do they think John Paton felt up in that tree all night as he listened to angry cannibals hunting for him? Why do some of us always cry when we read Patricia St. John?

Here then, is the list. It is far from complete. It is heavy on books from recent years and heavy on novels. It is light on historical fiction and biographies of famous Americans because we read those aloud in our school time. I have only categorized it broadly and not always listed authors. If you are curious about a particular book, leave me a comment. The list will continue to grow and we will continue to read. I expect that even after our children are all grown and gone, you will find Coty and me at the breakfast table reading, and the phone ringing on....

Novels - what you would call literature:
Great Expectations; David Copperfield (twice); A Tale of Two Cities; A Christmas Carol; The Lord of the Rings trilogy; The Hobbit; The Talisman; Fair Maid of Perth; Ivanhoe; The Heart of Midlothian; Alice in Wonderland; Through the Looking Glass; Pilgrim's Progress; Pilgrim's Progress:Christiana; The Holy War (also by Bunyan); Red Badge of Courage; The Old Man and the Sea; the first book of Les Miserables; Tom Sawyer; Huckleberry Finn; Silas Marner

Children's chapter books:
Call it Courage; Strawberry Girl; Roller Skates; Lyddie; Johnny Tremain; Heidi; Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates; all the Haffertee Hamster books; The Jungle Books; The Jungle Doctor books; Treasures of the Snow; I Needed a Neighbor; Three Go Searching; Twice Freed; The Tanglewood Secret; The Secret Garden; The Railway Children; Five Little Peppers and How they Grew; My Side of the Mountain; all the Narnia books; Ramona books by Beverly Cleary; The Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransome; several books by Madeline L'engle

Missionary biographies and autobiographies:
Bruchko; The Good Seed; And the Word Came with Power; The Autobiography of John Paton; Mountain Rain; The Little Woman; Green Leaf in Drought Time; Mrs. Howard Taylor's biography of the Stams in China; Shadow of the Almighty; William Carey; Adoniram Judson

Other biographies:
Never Give In (Winston Churchill); Carry a Big Stick (Theodore Roosevelt); biographies of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson; The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; selections from the John Marshall biography by Smith; Aim High, Dave Johnson's Story; Ed Viesture's No Shortcuts to the Top

Doctrine, devotion, and the like:
Redemption Accomplished and Applied; Don't Waste Your Life; A Godward Life Book 2; The Moral Compass; The Book of Virtures

Ring of Bright Water; Eats, Shoots, and Leaves; Haroun and the Sea of Stories; The Royal Road to Romance:Travel stories by Richard Haliburton; Longitude; short stories by various authors including Poe, Flannery O' Connor, O'Henry and others

The current breakfast chapter book is Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, perhaps the most well known Nigerian novelist. Never heard of him. Now you have! And after that?? Well, suffice it to say that the list will grow on...


Kelly said...

So many reasons I am smiling while reading this entry...

1) I called your house this morning at 8:30, about an hour after you wrote this, but naturally no one answered. I should know this by now.

2) I will definitely take your advice and start a journal!!

3) I am experiencing a vivid memory of Ramona receiving her perfect pearly pink eraser on the first day of school. And the name "Yard Ape" comes to mind.

Did you ever read The Mouse and the Motorcycle? That was one of my favorites growing up.

It's a great list!!! I will be returning here for suggestions!

Melanie said...

What great fun! How long does is a morning reading session? Do you read several chapters or just one? How are the books chosen? It's such a great idea...MUCH better than "family time around the TV".

Thanks for sharing your list.

Beth said...

We have read The Mouse and the Motorcycle, though I don't think it was a breakfast read aloud.

Another Ramona memory is from Ramona and Her Father. After a quarrel, Ramona asks, "Why aren't we a happy family?" and her mother replies, "Why Ramona, we ARE a happy family." We have recited that line on countless occasions!

And by the way, Stockard Channing does a phenomenal job of reading the Ramona books on tape...though I guess they're on CD these days. We listened to those over and over on long car trips. They're well worth listening to if you like Ramona.

amanda said...

Your children’s list brings me back to Highlands Elementary and reading on my grandmother’s couch. Several of those titles were on my childhood bookshelf, but for some reason “The Secret Garden,” “My Side of the Mountain” and merely seeing the name Madeline L’Engle stir me, though I don’t even remember the stories.

Oh, and I am forever indebted to you for the “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves” recommendation--I in turn recommended to many and bought copies for several fellow language lovers.

Amber Benton said...

Ramona, Ramona, Ramona, sometimes I think I was Ramona! My memories are of the horrible Christmas sweater and a whole tube of toothpaste squeezed out into the sink and she had to use it all up from a jar while her sister got a nice fresh tube!

And just YESTERDAY I kept referring to 'Things Fall Apart', though I couldn't remember the author!

I have a journal for me although I haven't kept up with it. It's a good idea, I wonder if we could take note of them in the back of our family nature journal?

I have read Noel's traditions - Thanks both Beth and Kelly! I'll be returning it soon, Kelly (and Beth there was something of your in the book) and getting a copy of my own.

Jen Unsell said...

Ok Beth. I am sitting here crying after reading this post. Beautiful, just Beautiful!!!! All your posts are always beautiful and so encouraging- but this one- this one really grabbed my heart!! Thank you! *sigh*

Thank you for the list of books- Thank you for your encouraging words over how these books have bonded your family- and thank you for the idea of a journal to list readings in.

Hugs and much love to you! You guys are the best and we are more blessed from knowing you!

Ps- I'm still crying! :-)

ukrainiac said...

I wish I had written down all of the books we read outloud as a family as our children grew up. And, yes, you're probably right that you will continue to read after your children are grown -- my husband and I still read every morning with our coffee. Go over our calendars. Concerns. And pray. It started because we wanted to be sure that we all read the classics. Then we added missionary biographies. Even some theology books. Now we just can't stop! We really miss it when he's out of town, or has a dreadfully early meeting.

Ah, and our children always had to read the book before they could see the movie...

Timalee said...

I just found your blog today and this post is lovely. Just what I want to aspire to for my young family. May I ask though, when did you start this tradition? My oldest is not quite yet 2 so still to early for me, but what is a good age to start at? Thank you for the list though, there are so many titles on there that I have never got to read but still want to find the time for!

Beth said...

We started reading aloud to our kids when they were quite young - I have a picture of my husband reading aloud to an entranced 6 month old! Of course we weren't reading Dickens then - probably something more like Animal Daddies and My Daddy! But my husband did begin reading Narnia books to our daughter at bedtime when she was two! This evolved to our reading aloud around the table. Of course as our family grew, each successive child joined the read aloud time as an infant. I'd say it's never too early to begin the lovely habit of reading together at the table. You just start with books that are age appropriate for the first one and go from there. Sometimes the book is too easy for one, a stretch for another but we all get something out of it in the end and we learn so many valuable lessons, including the lesson of learning to sit quietly and listen even if we don't fully understand everything! All the best to you as you begin the journey of famiily reading together. And just a little caution - if you don't MAKE the time to read together, you won't FIND it.