Five Books That I Can't Wait to Read to My Son

My son is just on the cusp of having enough patience to listen to chapter books, read aloud over many nights. Much to my surprise, he loved The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- so much so that we read it twice -- but we got bogged down somewhere around the everlasting gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But I'll keep suggesting stories (and trying not to force any down his throat). Here's a list of books I hope he'll want to try soon:


Where the Red Ferns Grow, by Wilson Rawls. Mrs. Wiggins read this story -- about a boy and his two coonhounds -- to my fourth-grade class. There is no pathos like a class full of 9-year-olds -- plus the teacher -- sobbing their hearts out over the fate of those poor dogs. One of the most searing reading experiences of my young life.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. The little fellow proves to have more courage (and sneakiness) than the hardiest of warriors. What could be more inspiring to a small boy!

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl. We didn't finish another of Dahl's classics, but this one has a giant ladybug, a giant grasshopper and a giant centipede. To certain little boys, this may be more appealing than rivers of chocolate.

The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame. I've never read this. Can you believe it?

The Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. How else will he learn how syrup gets made or that a panther can chase a man on a horse?

What have you enjoyed reading aloud to your kids?

-- Rachel Hartigan Shea

By Rachel Hartigan Shea |  December 18, 2008; 7:03 AM ET Children/YA , Rachel Hartigan Shea
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I'm currently reading the third Harry Potter book to my 6-year-old daughter. I don't know how much she's really getting out of the books, but she does love hearing them read to her. However, I'm debating whether to read the fourth book to her anytime soon -- that's where I think the series starts to get a bit scary for a 6-year-old.

She also loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but got bogged down on The Horse and His Boy. We've gotten through half each of Charlotte's Web and A Little Princess before she decided she didn't want to hear anymore. The Harry Potter books seem to be the only chapter books she'll stick with.

Posted by: kleewrite | December 18, 2008 10:15 AM

Russell Hoban's "Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas" was such a favorite of my little boy. He loved even more the 1977 television by Jim Henson that has some beautiful melodies by Paul Williams. My son is now 31 and has his own little boy. Last year after Christmas Eve services and a great dinner at a restaurant, we came back to our house. "Look, dad," he said, and pulled the Henson DVD out of his coat pocket.

Posted by: lheffelkcrrcom | December 18, 2008 11:03 AM

For a boy and for a great read-aloud, "My Father's Dragon" by Ruth Stiles Gannett is gripping - and absolutely charming - a rare combination. And it's the start of a trilogy...

Posted by: JoeCottonwood | December 18, 2008 12:27 PM

I've decided that reading is the first true "letting go" experience with one's child. I love to read, make frequent visits to the library and bookstore, and have shelves (and other furniture) filled with books at home. Somehow, though, I haven't been able to pass that love of reading along to my eight-year-old son. He likes graphic novels, which I've learned to embrace, but I can't get him to show much enthusiasm for more conventional children's lit. Roald Dahl is the one exception. He really liked "Witches," "The BFG," and, especially, "Danny the Champion of the World." If you can handle the fact that Danny's mom dies on the first page (her death is only alluded to), you might give this last a try. It's about a poor boy who conspires with his dad against a local tyrant, and it's a wonderful depiction of the good things that can happen when wisdom and innocence work together.

Posted by: billbrantley | December 18, 2008 4:06 PM

So far the most complex thing I've read to my 3 y/o are the longer Dr. Suess books such as The Lorax, and those are great.

We had The Hobbit read to my elementary class, and I look forward to reading that one.

Harry Potter seems kind of scary for a 6 y/o, as kleewrite wonders. Maybe Anne of Green Gables? Nancy Drew?

I actually hadn't read C.S. Lewis as a kid but think that will be great to read. That could probably be read to a 6 y/o, I think.

At this stage, however, now we're primarily concerned with the recidivism of Swiper the Fox.

Posted by: engelmann | December 18, 2008 5:52 PM

the phantom tollbooth, the tale of despereaux, the sisters grimm.

Posted by: robynsc | December 18, 2008 9:21 PM

I don't have kids, but I like to read aloud "The Jungle Book" and "Anne of Green Gables" to kids.

Posted by: choirgirl04 | December 19, 2008 9:49 AM

I'd wondered about starting with the Harry Potter books. My son is 4, and I'm just not sure if he'd get all the school humor. He loved My Father's Dragon, and I did too. So surreal! I think the key, at least at this age, is for the stories to be action-packed, even if that means it's a little scary.

Posted by: rhshea | December 19, 2008 11:19 AM

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Wind and the Willows, and The Jungle Book were winners for us.

Posted by: Elaine10 | December 19, 2008 6:27 PM

My son just turned 3 and loves having ANYTHING read to him - currently anything "Max & Ruby", Spot, and Dr Seuss. We participate in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program, and the books they send are always great.

That said, he also listens to a wide range of adult books as his dad and I read aloud to one another nearly every day. We've done the "Pern" series by Anne McCaffrey, Harry Potter of course, and currently "The Time Traveler's Wife". (Obviously we edit as we go for the benefit of young ears.)

My nephew loved a series called... the cowdog? or something like that.

I bet older boys would enjoy
- the "Sideways Stories" by Louis Sachar
- "The Castle in the Attic" by Elizabeth Winthrop
- "The Indian in the Cupboard"
- "SuperFudge"
These were books I read to my little brother and we loved them.

Posted by: jaxom | December 21, 2008 2:07 AM

When our boys were young, we found a selection of classics (probably somewhat abridged) in the discount section of the bookstore and went through a long and happy Jules Verne period -- 20,000 Leagues under the sea and Around the World in 80 Days are great adventures and the kids loved seeing Verne's amazing ability to predict the inventions of the future. There's also A Cricket in Times Square (which prompted our first trip to NY) and anything by Avi.

Posted by: fmjk | December 21, 2008 11:25 AM

A favorite book read to and by my nephew and his cousins when they were 6 and under was Walter the Farting Dog and the rest of the series. Boys just seem to love books about dogs and farting! First, I read them to him when he was 5, and soon he was reading them to me.

Around that age, he also started really enjoying having the Hardy Boys books read to him.

The Henry Reed series by Keith Robertson is good, too, as well as some classic books such as Homer Price and its sequel by Robert McCloskey, the Mad Scientist Club series by Bertrand R. Brinley, and the books about Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary.

For the Harry Potter reader... I would suggest waiting. In all actuality, I think the 2nd book is the scariest, more so than the 3rd, at least in the parts that a 6 year old would "get", but the later books go into much more mature themes, probably why they seem scarier to an adult, that most 6 year olds would probably be bored by. So, I suggest waiting til your boy is ready and willing to re-read the first 3 books to himself (or even read them along with the absolutely wonderful Jim Dale audio recordings) before moving on to numbers 4 and beyond. On the other hand, though, my nephew (mentioned above) enjoyed what he could get from the the first 4 books before he was 6 years old and had each of the last 3 books read to him as soon as they were released and, though I'm sure he'll enjoy them even more when he reads them himself when he's older, he doesn't go anywhere ever without a book. He's an active, athletic kid who's also an avid reader.

Posted by: anotherbridetobe | December 21, 2008 2:07 PM

"My nephew loved a series called... the cowdog? or something like that."

It's "Hank the Cowdog."

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | December 21, 2008 7:43 PM

My children loved "Winnie the Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner." You'll also appreciate the jokes for adults hidden in the books. They will keep you from getting too bored, like the jokes for adults in "Sesame Street." Another good bet: "The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks, plus the others in that series.

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | December 21, 2008 7:48 PM

My Side of the Mountain by Jean George is the book I remember as teaching me to love the outdoors and the thrill of being able to thrive there.

Posted by: ks15 | December 21, 2008 9:34 PM

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