Chapter One

I have fond memories of my mom reading chapter books to me when I was young. We went through all the Little House on the Prairie books* at a pace of one chapter per night, with me curled up next to her in bed. I also recall a summer car trip when she read Johnny Tremain out loud. I don't know that I even particularly liked the story of Johnny Tremain, but I know I loved being read to.

When I had children of my own, I was ready to follow my mother's example. Starting when the jalapeño was around 4, I tried reading him chapter books, but they just didn't hold his interest. There's certainly no shortage of picture books in the world, so it's not as if we were wanting for reading material! Still, I've been delighted that recently he's been taking more of an interest in chapter books. In the past few months, we've read and loved Armstrong & Charlie by Steven B. Frank, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian's Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman.

Do you have memories of a parent or other adult reading aloud to you--or reading a particular book to your child? And what have you been reading lately?

*I am certain she pointed out at least some of the problematic content related to Indians, though I think at the time a lot of that went completely over my head.

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31 thoughts on “Chapter One”

  1. I remember really looking forward to having my friend's mom read from The Little House series during sleepovers.

    I'm currently reading Wonder at the prompting of my kids. Really good book for the 4th to 7th grade ages. I like how it gives many perspectives and makes you think about others.

    1. We read Wonder as a family. My kids loved it, though I think it'll land even better when they're a bit older. Very good message to that book.

  2. I remember being read Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers, The Man in the Iron Mask, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

    Last month, I read The Republic For Which It Stands, the Oxford History of the United States book about 1865-96 and I'm just finishing up The Bully Pulpit about Teddy Roosevelt and Taft, so I'm fully immersed in cronyism, corporate greed, labor strife, and all sorts of other problems that haven't been solved (or were partially some before being undermined recently) in 100 years.

  3. I don't remember why I chose to read chapter books aloud to the kids, but it wasn't because of my own experience. My mother did read to me! But I think once I got going on reading I really enjoyed it to the point that she just let me fly with it.

    Here are some younger-age books I've read to the kids over the years:
    - Wayside school series (we've read the first 2)
    - The Trumpet of the Swan
    - The One and Only Ivan
    - Crenshaw
    - Pippi Longstocking
    - Roald Dahl (Charlie, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Danny the Champion of the World)
    - Escape from Hat (written by a friend of a friend explicitly for reading aloud)
    - I think we also read his With Kind Regards from Kindergarten
    - Bambi
    - Jenny and the Cat Club
    - The Boxcar Children (people have good memories of these - I couldn't read more than one)
    - Little House (we've read a couple – honestly we stopped because I didn't enjoy them – sorry!)
    - Charlotte's Web
    - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

    And some more advanced:
    - The Tale of Despereaux
    - A Coyote's in the House (Elmore Leonard)
    - A Series of Unfortunate Events series
    - The Dark Is Rising series (read the first 2, but they didn't catch on with the kids)
    - Narnia (have read a few of them, but they didn't catch on, really)
    - Bromeliad Trilogy book 1 (Terry Pratchett - also didn't catch on)
    - A Wrinkle in Time (was hard for all of us)
    - Watership Down

  4. Pops read The Hobbit & the Lord of the Rings trilogy to me, chapter by chapter, when I was a young boy. I was devastated when

    Actual Spoiler SelectShow

    Because of the vivid images of that world I developed as Pops read, I’ve never had the desire to see any of the films based on Tolkien’s books.

    As for lately, I finished Laurus about ten days ago. Excellent novel; I understand the comparison of Vodolazkin to Umberto Eco. Since then, I’ve just about finished Richard Brautigan’s Rommel Drives on Deep Into Egypt and started Glyn Maxwell’s On Poetry, and Walter Kalaidjian’s Cambridge Companion to Modern American Poetry.

    1. Maybe I am in the minority here, but I absolutely loved the Lord of the Rings movies. I do tend to avoid movies made from my favorite books as I also don't want to lose the images or story in my head. The LOTR movies actually enhanced the world for me. The Hobbit movies? Not so much. Wish I would have skipped them.

      1. I will bring you closer to the majority then. I also love the movies as well as the books. I watched Fellowship with the kids a month ago, although they're a bit young to stick with the extended version. I'll probably see what happens with The Two Towers anyway.

        I saw the first Hobbit and decided that was enough.

      2. I think I'm in the minority in that I quite liked the books, but didn't love them. Meanwhile, I really loved the movies. Well, aside from the 45-minute ending of the last one … though at the time I never wanted it to end so I guess it's fine!

        1. I'm with you, except I didn't even manage to make it half-way through the second book. And ever since I saw the movies, I haven't really felt the need to read the books again.

          1. Heh. When the movies were coming out I decided to reread the books. After finishing The Two Towers and then seeing the movie I was like … I'm good.

            1. When the movies came out is when I first read the books (tore through the trilogy on a trip to Thailand). I re-read them as well, but skipped every poem and song. That saved me several hours, I'm pretty sure.

      3. I loved the books and thought the movies were pretty good, but with quibbles. Agree about The Hobbit. What a shame. It’s a cracking story too. Could’ve been a great 3 hour movie if it had just followed the story.

  5. Same experience with now 6-year old Kernel. First chapter book for her was Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Wind in the Willows (though ‘chapters’ are broken down into separate, tiny, books). Currently working through James and the Giant Peach and have picked up a few Beverly Cleary books in recent months.

    Growing up, my Dad read to me (us) a lot. My most vivid memory is of him using a foreign accent (his own interpretation of Yiddish!) when reading Stories for Children* by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

    Currently reading Wolves of the Calla - Steven King.
    *Dark Tower Book V

  6. Newbish is currently all about Nibbles the Book Monster. He's got both it and the way I tell it (different voices for all the characters, most of which I was unable to replicate with my recent cold) memorized, to the point where he sits in bed and recites it from memory.

    The book itself is pretty clever, too, so I can hardly complain.

  7. My parents read to me, but if they read me chapters books I don't remember. Once I got to the age I could read I wanted to do that on my own so I could go faster.

    Haven't tried a non-picture book with my 5 year-old yet, but he might be ready soon. Though I fear after every third sentence he'd want to yell, "in his butt!" and giggle.

    1. Unexpected “butt!!!” or “poopy butt!!!” from my little one all the time. Sometimes, it’s really hard to keep up the “No [Niblet], we don’t say potty words.” with a straight face.

      1. At the risk of stirring up a non-book related conversation and then just walking away, I'm curious for your reasons in encouraging you children to stop saying "butt"... 😉

        1. Oh, you. None. Please note I didn't encourage them to use a different word. That's all their doing after learning of the existence of the other word. And truthfully, they now use both. It's just that we now have more variety rather than hearing nonstop about butts.

    2. My kids enjoyed that I pointed out "Big Butt" in Virginia as we drove past it both directions.
      Though driving in from the west, the mountains on the south of the interstate, "Big House" and "Little House" together seemed to more aptly fit the name.
      Driving back home, it made more sense. Thanks, Rand McNalley for putting the mountain in your Road Atlas (though there were a lot more you could have added).

  8. I recall my parents reading to me a lot, but not chapter books. I definitely got a lot of those in school from teachers reading out loud though, and I loved the idea for my kids.

    We've read many of the ones listed by others, and a few that haven't been listed. Our list includes: James and the Giant Peach, Wonder, Trumpet of the Swan (currently reading a second time because the kids love it), Stuart Little, The Black Stallion, Ms. Pigglewiggle.

    I've been considering trying A Wrinkle In Time next.

    1. I also cannot remember my parents reading me chapter books, but I also hardly remember them reading me other books. I was precocious and an early reader, so I mostly remember reading to myself.
      I've gotten very tired of reading picture books, and had started reading chapter books to AJR and LBR (who share a room), but LBR protested too much. Then my wife suggested reading stories to AJR after LBR's story to let LBR fall asleep.
      I started with some chapter books from EAR's reading list for AJR, but then I started reading selections from Lang's Rainbow Fairy Books, and now that's one of my favorite things. I haven't previewed any of the stories, so it's fun guessing with AJR whether taking/disregarding any set of magical advice is a good idea or bad idea. Resolved: it's really hard to tell.
      Some stories are one-nighters, others are 4-nighters.
      A recent story, from the Orange Fairy Book, had one character called "the Jew" which really didn't seem necessary. I think the story was from East Africa, where most people would have been assumed to be Muslim. I gave AJR some context and asked asides as to "what does his religion even matter?"

      I've read most of Awdry's Railway Series (we have a bound collection, which is like a picture/chapter book hybrid) to LBR, but she doesn't want to read-through, so it's maybe one story a week and I keep forgetting the voices and having to come up with new ones. (Except I know that Sir Topham Hatt is Nixon's Head from Futurama.

      My kids do get a lot of chapter books read to them by their teacher (who is also their mother).
      For our trip to NC and back, we had books 1, 2, and 4 of "The 39 Clues" on CD or download from the library. That was fun, though the reader's slow accent shift of the au pair was unfortunate. She starts out sounding like a gay Miami Cuban (though she's of French-Mexican descent IIRC), and ends up similar but much less so.

  9. When I was young--many, many years ago--there was a series called Best in Children's Books. Both my parents and my big brothers read them to me frequently. My parents still have the books, as I can attest because I found them a few weeks ago when I was cleaning out their basement.

  10. We went through all the Little House on the Prairie books*

    A new book about Wilder adds another asterisk to that.

    I started reading The Little Prince with the four-year-old, he requested it, but we didn't make it far before he lost interest. He might skip us reading those kinds of books to him though, as he figured out how to read at some point last year, and do it himself once he is interested. He's already read some picture books to the two-year-old.

  11. I remember back in 1994 when people were heavily discussing Kurt Cobain's death, and someone causally commented that Richard Scarry, who also had just died, had a whole lot more influence on his life.

    1. My parents moved back to the Cities last fall, from a 5 bedroom house to a two bedroom condo. I acquired three boxes of deteriorating children’s books (smell of long disuse and a damp basement), including my favorite Scarry of all time: Silly Stories. My son hasn’t stopped ‘reading’ it, despite the ‘smelly grandparent basement’ condition.

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