“I have to read to her for hours and hours….but, I do all the voices!”
– Jo March in Little Women
It is my considered opinion that few things equal the joy of being read aloud to. Don’t you think so? While I’ve lost count of the many books that I’ve read in my life, the books (or portions of books) that have been read to me seem to stick in my memory in a different, brighter way. Even now, when I open certain books, the voices of beloved readers come floating out of them as I recite the words in my head. My mom reading The Polar Express. My dad pausing for dramatic effect before reading in a Nancy Drew book, “And then, she was knocked unconscious!” My friend Laura giving voice to gruff but lovable Podo Helmer in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness as we road-tripped to Nashville. Weekly “storytimes” in my college dorm when my friend Nicole would read aloud from George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin.
I was thinking about those voices that stick out so clearly in my memory the other day, as I was riding in the car with my sister Kristen on our way to a family wedding. We were stuck in traffic, so I took the opportunity to commence reading aloud from Jonathan Rogers’ The Charlatan’s Boy. Take note: this is a perfect read-aloud book. The chapters are short enough to be unintimidating, there aren’t a lot of characters to remember, and the narrative voice is strong and gosh-darn funny. As I recited the first few chapters of Grady and Professor Floyd’s journeys around Corenwald, I found my voice slipping into a nice, comfortable sort of southern twang. (Since Corenwald is a fictional place, I didn’t worry too much about authenticity of accent.) There are some characteristics that just make a book tons of fun to read aloud and to listen to, and the opportunity to do different character voices is one of them.
So many other books come to mind that have characters whose voices are funny or poignant or mischievous. Roald Dahl’s The BFG, the Narnia books, Stuart Little, Homer Price, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Harry Potter. Below I’ve included some links to a few lists of great read-aloud books, along with some tips for choosing titles.
- Over at the Storyformed Online Library, Sarah Clarkson offers a list of great titles under the “Family Read Aloud” tag.
- This list from The Gospel Coalition includes several sections of books for “read aloud in class” (or at home).
- Here’s another list from Joy Forney at GracefullMama.
- Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook. Now in its seventh edition, this book is a compendium of classic and recently published read-aloud titles, and it’s full of statistics on the merits of reading aloud and helpful tips for choosing good read-aloud books.
- Some tips from The Read-Aloud Handbook:
- Be wary of choosing a book with too much dialogue. If the author doesn’t use phrases at the end of the dialogue, such as “said Horace,” it can be difficult for the listener to tell who is who, and hard on the reader to have to explain.
- The most common mistake while reading aloud is reading too fast. Take your time, there’s plenty of story left!
- Everyone enjoys a good picture book, even a teenager.
What are some books that your family has enjoyed reading aloud? Or any that you’ve only read to yourself that you’d like to try reading aloud? Have fun! (And don’t forget; it helps if you do the voices.)