I knew it had to happen, somewhere, sometime.
"Dad, don't you think we're a bit too old for this?"
There it was; it could no longer be ignored. B's innocent question left me reeling, scrambling to find an answer that would appease his curious mind and still keep intact one of the best things I have ever done for my children. In the end, I decided it was time.
For the past three years I have made it our nightly routine to read aloud from a book to my three children, who I will call B, A, and K in this post. My kids have heard tales about wizards in a far-off country battling for their lives, about a brother and sister who are worried about meeting a potential new mommy, about a mouse who fashions himself a knight, about a school built 30 stories tall and the weird goings-on therein. The stories I have told them now live in their minds, in their souls, and I am glad I could contribute to their young lives in this way.
But I also wish it didn't have to end. I love reading aloud to them, seeing their faces light up at an amusing joke or a realized plan, seeing them act out a young girl smashing the dreaded Queen of the Fairies with a frying pan or a boy and his tiger sledding down a hill while narrowly avoiding certain doom. Reading time is, without irony or exaggeration, the best part of my day.
Even the stories they didn't particularly like have stuck with them: B will bring up quotes from Charlotte's Web even though he claimed to hate the book; A tried onions for the first time specifically because of Holes (though he didn't end up liking them); and K still talks about scary dreams involving the disembodied hand from Coraline. These stories have impacted their lives in a tangible manner.
As much as I wish it didn't have to end, I've always known it would, and the time has come. My kids are old enough to read to themselves, for the most part, and now instead of reading a single book together before bedtime, they are reading their own novels, own stories, following their own interests. This is, I realize now, my ultimate goal: to get them to enjoy reading on their own terms. In that respect, I succeeded.
All The Stories They Heard
I made it a point, early in our Read-Aloud Corner time, to read books from a variety of time periods, formats, and genres. I wish could have gotten some more diverse authors, too, but I didn't and am not sure why (as far as I can tell, there is exactly one non-white author on this list, and I wish there were more).
NOTE: All links to books in this post are Amazon Affiliate links; I get a small portion of any sales made through them. Any proceeds I make off this post will go directly to buying more books for my kids, to ensure they love reading and stories as much as I do.
At any rate, here is the complete list of books I read aloud to my kids over three years:
Aru Shah and the End of Time
The Call of the Wild
The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes
The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Illustrated)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Illustrated)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Illustrated)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
James and the Giant Peach
Little House in the Big Woods
Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning Thief
Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Sea of Monsters
Sarah, Plain and Tall
Sideways Stories from Wayside School
The Tale of Despereaux
The Wee Free Men (Discworld - Tiffany Aching #1)
Wayside School is Falling Down
Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger
The Next Chapter
Part of growing up is moving forward, onward to bigger and better things. B, A, and K have ventured off to reading their own favorite books; here are few of them:
B (Boy, 10 Years Old):
Wraith Squadron (Star Wars X-Wing #5)
The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase #1)
Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond Series
A (Boy, 10 Years Old):
The Last Kids on Earth Series
Aru Shah and the Song of Death
Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Titan's Curse
K (Girl, 7 Years Old):
A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld - Tiffany Aching #2)
Missing Pieces (Hello Neighbor #1)
K still needs help reading, so for the next while I will read the majority of the text in her books while her job is to read anything said by the main character. That way, we both get to participate in getting her up to the point where she can read chapter books entirely independently. Plus, the books she wants to read are, quite frankly, a bit too advanced for her, so I'm happy to continue helping in this way.
The End and the Beginning
I cannot recommend this experience highly enough. There is no greater joy than giving your child the gift of reading, for with it comes a lifetime of adventures, joy, sadness, anticipation, exhilaration, and wonderment. If you are able, read to your children. Give them this power: the power to adventure through time and space using only words. Know that the end of this joyous time will come sooner than you like, but that ending is the only way to help them grow.
B, A, K: when you are old enough and find this post, know that Daddy had the best time, the very best time, reading to you kiddos. I am sad that it had to end, but the best things must, and it was time for you to find your own adventures. I will be here when you get back from them.