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    Books & Reading, Home Education

    A Year of Reading Aloud

    January 2, 2018 by Brandy Vencel

    When my 15-year-old was a two-year-old, I read Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorns. Back then, there weren’t as many homeschooling books, and People said this was one to read, so I read it. It’s thick — over 600 pages! I read every single one of them. But that was a long time ago. I don’t know if I could have told you right away which single idea I would carry away from that book and hold onto forever, but I can tell you now that a dozen years have passed: Read aloud for two hours per day.

    I started right away. We were already close to that, but it was nice to have a goal.

    The years went by, three more children were added, and still, day in and day out, four or five days a week, I read aloud for a couple hours (sometimes more, and less on weekends when my husband was around — and almost never in a row. It was 15 minutes here and 20 minute there, especially in the beginning.). While gestating, I often fell asleep while reading aloud, only to wake up to some little person asking, “Mommy, why do your words sound so funny?”

    It’s been a long time since I’ve timed it, but those habits we built during the preschool years are still so strong, I wouldn’t be surprised if we clock in at around two hours even now. It’s not on purpose, you know. Not any more. It’s just what we’re like. It’s our culture.

    People sometimes ask me how we get through so many books in a year. It seems like a lot, I guess. Twenty-four books — that has to be thousands of pages. But it was easy, actually, because it’s just what we do. We read aloud at lunch and after dinner. We read aloud in the afternoons sometimes. On Sundays, we go out to dinner, and I read on the drive there and the drive back. This habit is deeply woven now, but even when it wasn’t, it was never a burden, for I have always liked to read.

    We read a lot of series this year. We’ve never done that before (beyond obvious things like Narnia and Middle Earth). It was lovely.

    So here’s the official 2017 list of read alouds. And so you don’t forget, my children were ages 8-14 when 2017 began, and 9-15 now that it’s ended. Most of these books I wouldn’t have read aloud even a year earlier. It pays to wait for the “right” ages — which, of course, varies by family and the maturity of children, etc.

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    The Comedy of Errors

    This was our first book of 2017. At that time, I was having trouble fitting Shakespeare in, and then I thought to myself that I had always wanted to be the sort of family that read Shakespeare aloud for fun. What if I just did it? So I did. And it went great and everyone loved it.

    Shakespeare is happening in a co-op setting right now, and that’s great, too, but simply reading it aloud was wonderful, too.

    The Ark by Margot Benary-Isbert

    This was on the AmblesideOnline free read lists (can’t remember which year), and I had spent years trying to find an affordable copy. In 2016, I finally did, so in 2017, we read it aloud. It was great. The setting is postwar Germany. I love books that show families persevering under hardship.

    The Richard Hannay Books by John Buchan

    Yes, we did! British spy novels — purportedly by the author who invented the spy novel. We came to adore Richard Hannay. The books, beyond being interesting and exciting, also grapple with difficult questions such as what duties a man owes to his family, his friends, and his country.

    The book I linked has five books in it: The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Mr. Standfast, The Three Hostages, and The Island of Sheep. Of all of these titles, The Thirty-Nine Steps was probably my least favorite, and yet it’s not to be missed because that is where you first meet Mr. Hannay, plus everything develops from there.

    In addition to those five titles, we also read The Courts of the Morning. Richard Hannay doesn’t really appear in that book, but his friends do, and The Island of Sheep refers back to the events that happen in it, so it was worth it to read it, even though we didn’t love it as much as the others.

    We LOVED these books.

    NOTE: These books contain a few racial slurs. The nice part about reading them aloud is that my children never even knew they were there. I mean, yes, we talk to our children about such things, but sometimes it’s nice to just clean a book up as you go and make it a non-issue.

    The Anne of Green Gables Books by LM Montgomery

    There are eight books in this series, and we read all but the last one (Rilla of Ingleside) because I have them read that for school in fifth or sixth grade. I loved Anne as a child, but I only had the first three books — I wasn’t even aware there were more, I don’t think. I read those three books over and over. In fact, that is my first distinct memory of my best friend. We were in junior high at a mutual friend’s 13th birthday party and I made a reference to Anne of Green Gables and she not only got it, she understood I meant the book and not the movie.

    I still love that girl.

    Over the years, I’ve collected the whole series, and it was so much fun to read them to my children. Even my teenage son thought Anne was funny (though admittedly he complained more than once that she talked too much as a child).

    The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

    I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect to love these. I expected to tolerate them because my children wanted them read aloud. But they were SO GOOD. We read all four of them this year and they were lovely and beautiful and everything good, even while they were real and sometimes gritty and violent.

    The ending of the final book was an open question, and my girls couldn’t stand it, so they both wrote alternate endings and we read them aloud, too, which was fun.

    Here are these wonderful books:

    North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
    The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

    On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! or Be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, and were all so good, I can’t even pick a favorite.

    The Ashtown Burials series by ND Wilson

    This series was total fun. Even my husband enjoyed it. Two of the children had already read all or part of The Brendan Voyage and are very familiar with Brendan the Navigator. The series makes extensive references to all sorts of mythology and legend and that alone was entertaining, but then the plot was intriguing as well.

    Here are these page turners:

    The Drowned Vault by ND Wilson
    Empire of Bones by ND Wilson

    The Dragon’s Tooth, The Drowned Vault, and Empire of Bones are all exactly that: page turners. This means it was risky business agreeing to read them aloud. Whenever a book has the movie-style cutting from one scene to another, it can be difficult to read aloud. Often, the transitions make no sense. But this series went fine, and like I said, it was great fun.

    The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

    I read this to O-Age-Nine (except for some days when Q-Age-11 was listening in). I love this book and I’ve loved reading it aloud in third grade for each of my students. It reads aloud well and it is just so magical. This was my last time reading it aloud, at least for a long while. As always, I have that bittersweet feeling about it.

    The Thirteen Days of Christmas by Jenny Overton

    This was such a delightful Christmas book. We laughed aloud so much! It was great. The book never says when the setting is, but it definitely had a Regency era feel to it. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and I highly recommend it as a Christmas read.

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  • Reply Greenmantle – humble adoration December 23, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    […] mentioned it several times on the Mason Jar Podcast. Brandy Vencel also included the series in her “A Year of Reading Aloud” post back in January. I read the first book The 39 Steps a few years ago, and then forgot to continue […]

  • Reply Monique Powers January 6, 2018 at 12:13 am

    This is so great. I just love how inspirational you are. Reading two hours a day! So dreamy…so inspiring that this can actually be done! Thank you for sharing this. And, I recently bought the Edge of the Dark Sea for my daughter but she hasn’t really gotten into it. I think I’ll turn it into a read aloud 🙂

  • Reply Sharron January 4, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    What a great list! I’m saving this post for future reference. I have a question about reading Shakespeare that I hope isn’t stupid. How do you read aloud the actual play? I have read aloud the children’s versions and we’ve watched the plays/movies. Do you divide the parts among your children and have them all read. I only have one with me for Shakespeare now, so maybe that’s why I’m wondering how it would work.

  • Reply Marijo January 4, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    I am blushing because I have embarrassed myself! I was remembering incorrectly. I read these to my kids a couple years ago but somehow convinced myself there were five books (not including the Tales). I shall go hide now.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 4, 2018 at 1:50 pm

      Haha! It’s okay. It happens. I was actually hoping you were right because that would mean there was more to read! ♥

  • Reply Kate January 4, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    How do you do all the voices in Shakespeare? I find my kids get confused if I don’t change the voices up, and I end up confusing myself!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 4, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      SO true! This particular play went okay, but with the more complicated one we often use finger puppets and the kids act it out. OR I have my teenager do half of the voices. It’s pretty trial and error over here. 🙂

  • Reply Marijo January 4, 2018 at 7:20 am

    But there are five books in The Wingfeather Saga!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 4, 2018 at 1:16 pm

      Do you mean Wingfeather Tales? Daughter Q. got that for Christmas. But I wasn’t aware it was part of the Saga!

  • Reply The 2018 Afterthoughts Book Awards | Afterthoughts January 3, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    […] My read aloud titles are listed here and aren’t part of my total of 32. I don’t know why I count them separately; I guess I like to know what I’ve done on my own. It was oh so hard to choose, and I feel a little guilty about Mr. Richard Hannay not winning, but Andrew Peterson totally takes the prize this year with his Wingfeather Saga. […]

  • Reply Beth January 2, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    My girls couldn’t stand the end of Warden and the Wolf King either!!! My oldest plans on writing “The Further Adventures of Janner Wingfeather” someday. We also have three chickens named Janner, Tink and Leelee! I think those were my favorite books we’ve read in the last two years. My husband jumped in halfway through Monster in the Hollow and was super annoyed that I hadn’t included him earlier?‍♀️ So now we’re revisiting the audio versions of the first three. Such truth and beauty and spiritual depth in those.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 3, 2018 at 10:37 am

      Okay, I LOVE that you used those names for chickens! We have rabbits due in a couple weeks. We should do that! ♥

  • Reply Shauna January 2, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    We just finished Brendan’s Voyage, so the ND Wilson books sound like a must read now.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 4, 2018 at 1:51 pm

      I think so! I have a hard time thinking people who don’t know who Brendan was can really appreciate what Wilson is doing in those books.

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