In the summer our family does many things, but the major one is that we read. And we read. And we read. We read to each other. We read separately. Sometimes the whole family will be in the living room silently reading their own books. We go to bookstores and buy books to read. We listen to authors talk about books we have read. We read in the park, outside in the front yard, or down at the beach. We read at home, in Georgia, and on the airplane in between. There are books in every room of our house and we frequently take large bundles to sell back to the used bookstore for credit. It was never planned this way; it just sorta happened.
The Barracuda taught himself to read at three. It is very scary to have your child just start reading things out of nowhere without any formal instruction into even letters. "Zoo" was his first read word. Soon after we started writing out, coloring, and placing three sight words a week the Barracuda's walls at his request. Then he wanted 5 a week. Then he wanted 10 a week. Then the list wasn't needed anymore he was just reading everything. Jules developed a game where they would use a long, Lego pointer to pick out words off the walls and make silly sentences. They would play long into bedtime. Shortly after, I started reading classic children's novels to The Barracuda and he got his first library card. We haven't ever looked back.
The experience of being able to discuss a book with your child and make connections to life is one that I can't imagine living without and one I would encourage most parents to attempt. When I looked for a classic children's lit book list of high interest read-aloud books there weren't many to find anywhere. There were lots of kid's classic lit lists which were short books and there were lots for kids who could read by themselves, but not many family read alouds. So here is our family's read aloud list. These are whole family, high interest, read aloud books which parents don't avoid like the plague. (If you are at the point of never wanting to read another book with talking animals, this might be the list for you!)
Winnie the Pooh series by A.A. Milne
The narrator cuts in a few times in these books which can be a bit confusing as a read aloud. We skipped the narrations easily and made the book much more readible. The stories are incredible and worth it.
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
Voices are great for this one.
Stuart Little by E.B. White
Short chapters make this an ideal before-bed book.
The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This is the quintessential girl book. I haven't even bothered reading it to my son, he would careless. But even as a tomboy, I LOVED this book. I would still read it over and over as an adult if I owned a copy.
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Some older English words, but my son still LOVED it
All of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Don't stop after The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. They get SO much better! These are action packed, about kids doing cool stuff, and FULL of moral values to discuss. There are significant religious undertones (which are not subtle for an adult) but they completely flew over my head as a kid and my son is clueless about them.
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'dell
A chick book to balance out a few of the boy reads. Boys might get into it, but don't feel bad stopping if their eyes begin to gloss over. For girls this strong heroine will balance out the Disney Princesses.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Admittedly a bit of a "boy" book, but many girls will love the concept too and the author is a girl. This is now a trilogy, but we have only read the first one.
Hatchet by Gary Larson
Another slightly "boy" book, but I thought it was amazing when I read it the first time and my son finds it just as riveting.
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
This was the book that sold Jules on reading. He was about 7 and later decided to become an English teacher due to a love of reading. Younger kids you might need to help along with the plot subtleties a bit, but the action and moral questions are worth it.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Great moral questions in this classic adventure tale. A very good one to discuss with kids some hard questions about right and wrong, appropriate choices, and explain why they thing certain choices were right or wrong.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Don't worry, I promise the dog doesn't die. I was waiting the entire book for the dog to die, ripping both my and the child's guts out and leaving us sobbing. You totally fall in love with this dog.
Rascal by Sterling North
A unique story of a boy and his dog, only the dog is a raccoon.
Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
My favorite quote in all of literature is from the Velveteen Rabbit. Be prepared parents, this book is so well written, poignant, and beautiful you may want to pre-read a section with a box of tissues. Kids won't be effected as much of the beauty comes from experience. They will see a wonderful story about toys.
Be sure to drop a comment on any which might have been missed or ones we should look into. I love the classical questions and timeless stories. When compiling this list, Jules and I got into differing ideas and questions like "What happened with Buck and the Indians at the end of Call of the Wild?" (we both had differing ideas, he was right) or "What did The Man In The Yellow Hat in Curious George do for a living?" (we were both wrong). They had to be Googled. Those are the types of things I want my son to get out of books. I want him to know the timeless classics so he can have bizarre conversations and friendly debates with others as he gets older. I want him to be able to relate to literature in hopes of finding some answers for himself to tough life questions.