MAGICAL is the first word to surface in my mind when I reflect on our family’s read-aloud adventures of 2022. Of course, that’s to be expected when you spend half a year under the spell of Narnia.
UNPREDICTABLE is the second word to come to mind.
Month by month over this past year, my hubby and I found ourselves needing to adjust and readjust our reading rituals to meet the ever-changing appetites of our two children. A three-and-a-half-year age gap can make reading aloud as a family a bit tricky in certain seasons —sometimes even four in a row.
It started with a birthday. The Captain turned seven this past spring and immediately adopted the wild habit of reading quite a lot to himself. (You can take a peek at his solo reading journey here: 🦉How Our Son Read 48 Chapter Books in 2022📚 without being told to!) And although he still loves it when his Papa and I read aloud to him, some evenings the draw to play yet another board game or tackle some elaborate project together surpasses the desire for more story, having already filled his literary cup on his own earlier in the day.
Next, there was summer to contend with. If you live in the Great North, then you understand. It’s often difficult to make reading happen on the homestead when the whole world around you is ripe for the picking.
Winters we live largely in the pages of books, storing up curiosity and wisdom to sow in the spring. Summers we live under the sun, storing up adventures and beauty to keep us kindled through the long, cold months ahead.
Then there was another birthday. Little Goldilocks turned four in the fall and promptly declared “I am ready for chapter books!” Of course, she’s been listening in on chapter books her entire little life (even when still in the womb) each year pricking her ears more and more to follow the score. She kept up quite brilliantly with The Chronicles of Narnia, was delighted with Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and was positively enchanted with Miss Heidi of the Swiss Alps.
All the same, we read Goldilocks’ intended message loud and clear: “I don’t want to just tag along listening to Bro-Bro’s chapter books anymore. I’m ready for my OWN chapter books —ones chosen especially for me.”
When our little Goldilocks spoke out, immediately I remembered the words of Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook: “If you can’t squeeze your kids into the same size underwear, don’t try to squeeze them into the same size book!”
And so, recently we’ve embarked on yet another chapter of our read-aloud expedition, dividing and conquering. For the past month, our family has been parting ways at bedtime story hour. “The boys” as Goldilocks calls them, have been conquering horrifying beasts in strange lands while “the girls,” just one room over, have been tiptoeing gently through the sweet meadows of young literature. How I’ve missed these dear little friends. (By the way, we do plan to parent swap book by book, but lately our kids have been in a boys and girls groove for whatever reason.)
This new divide and conquer routine has been a lovely change so far for our family, allowing for more age specific read-alouds as well as providing the flexibility for “the boys” to skip read-aloud *some* nights in order to tackle something else together . . . such as checking on their grain spawn and inoculating more coffee grounds with a fresh dose of fungus. (I jest not; a tour of our 🍄mushROOM🍄 coming soon.)
Then to round out four seasons of unpredictability, the holidays hit. A major wrench got thrown into our read-aloud plans for the holidays, and ironically the culprit was . . . BOOKS!
Once I opened up the beloved tote of Christmas picture books, our kids wouldn’t have anything else unless it was hot cocoa or wrapped up in shiny paper.
Of course, we were only too happy to indulge ourselves . . . I mean the kids. And so, the four of us happily surrendered to a month of cozy Christmas delight by the fire. (You can check out our favorite Christmas picture books here: 12 “Living Literature” Christmas Picture Books )
Despite all the seasonal diversions of 2022, we managed to assemble a surprisingly decent stack of completed chapter books. I’m always amazed how much volume can be covered with just a faithful chapter here, a loyal chapter there. Even more importantly than the volume, this year’s read-aloud titles all received a resounding two thumbs up save but one debatable contender with perhaps fewer delights than the title suggests.
So, here’s our stack from 2022! Stick around if you want to steal a few titles for your family’s read-aloud journey this year!
Sharing literary treats with each other is an auspicious way for us all to squirrel away ever richer storehouses of wisdom and beauty, book by book, year after year.
2022 Read-Alouds (not including picture books)
~what we read, what we loved, + one title we probably won’t be reading again~
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, read by Papa
*Age to read aloud: 7 and up
It makes me smile to think that no matter where we all end up, no matter how far away from each other, no matter what each of us is going through, our family will always have the days we spent as four children in Narnia. I’m not sure why but traveling through the wardrobe together is an especially soul-binding experience. Once the Captain and Papa stepped through those fur coats of “Spare Oom” and into the Great Woods, I couldn’t get them back out again! And night after night, Goldilocks and I found ourselves drifting in to join their adventures.
Thankfully, our enchanted wanderings began in January, and we rode out the entire winter and chilly spring on the backs of giants, dragons, horses, and a one-of-a-kind lion.
What can our family say about The Chronicles of Narnia? I’d say we give them a resounding yes and two thumbs up, but this seems about as enlightening as a little kid at a birthday party announcing, “cake is tasty!” Oh well, one more vote for cake I guess, and Chocolate Bavarian Cream at that!
Suffice it to say, if you have yet to don a fur coat, diamond vial of cordial, quiver of arrows, steel breastplate, velvet robe, and emerald-studded crown . . . well, my friend, it’s time to confront your wardrobe.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence Atwater and Richard Atwater, read by Mama
*Age to read aloud: 5 and up
Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a Mac-n-Cheese kind of read-aloud. What it may lack in substance, it makes up for in ease and “mmm.”
This one was a breeze and a joy to read to the kids, and it earned its place in the stack by holding both the kids’ attention and eliciting lots of laughter. Mr. Popper’s Penguins also earned itself bonus points as the first read-aloud book of the year that our son was inspired to read again for himself. In the book world, that speaks volumes.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri, read by Mama
*Age to read aloud: 7 and up
The kids and I fell in love with Heidi from the moment she pulled off all those heavy coats and frocks and took off running through the sunny, wildflower strewn meadows after Peter and the goats. Forever will our senses become intoxicated when we recall the alpine beauty painted from Johanna Spyri’s childhood memories of living in the mountains of Switzerland.
In addition to joy, Heidi inspired a unit study of Switzerland that knocked the lederhosen off our Back-to-Homeschool Kickoff this year. It was a rigorous September of yodeling, alpine meadow nature documentaries, goat cheese fondue, and Swiss chocolate. Well, someone has to do it.
Out of all the books we read this year, Heidi may have made the biggest impression on us. Although it wasn’t the easiest novel to read aloud, I’m so very glad I muddled through some difficult names, Germanic dialects, and bits of complicated dialogue. The storyline of Heidi is in a class all its own —so fair, so charming, so brisk. We will never forget our time together in the Swiss Alps.
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, read by Mama
Age to read aloud: 9 and up (or 7 and up for just Rikki-Tikki-Tavi)
I would say these tales made for a “just so” read-aloud, but that would be an overgeneralization. In truth, The Jungle Book has left me feeling a bit between two worlds. On one hand, the Mowgli Stories are striking and mysterious. On the other hand, the storyline is somewhat confused and meandering much like the Bandar-log. Then you have the “Just-So Stories” themselves in which some are more than just so, and some less. We parted ways with them altogether during a particularly grizzly encounter with an albino seal who witnessed the horrifying slaughter of his comrades. Goldilocks wept so loudly, I’m not sure I could have ever forgiven Mr. Kipling if it weren’t for Oh-Rikki! Of everything we read aloud this year, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi (the valiant! the true!) is what we read the most times over.
Both the Captain and Goldilocks were tickled pink from nose to tail by the world’s favorite mongoose and warrior of the garden. Each time we read it, their eyes grew bottlebrushy.
We read this particular Jungle Book tale a dozen times, listened to it another two dozen, and the kids even put on a two-hander enactment performed fittingly in the garden this past summer.
The Box of Delights by John Masefield, read by Papa
*Age to read aloud: 9 and up (if you and your child enjoy fantasy on steroids)
Call us unimaginative, but The Box of Delights was perhaps too out-of-the box for our family. While we love a good fantasy, I guess we require some semblance of connection or a cursory attempt to suspend our disbelief. In addition to the bizarre storyline, The Box of Delights makes for a difficult read-aloud with a hard-to-follow dialogue pattern. Sadly for us, we did not find as much delight as we had hoped to be found in this classic novel. In spite of that, however, Papa and the Captain are determined to finish it and have been painfully chipping away at it since before Christmas. They are a formidable pair. I would have given it the ole heave-ho weeks ago.
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones, read by Mama
*Age to read aloud: 2 and up
Every story really does whisper His name! Although this children’s Bible is palatable enough for a toddler, the whole family will find nourishment for the soul in this half picture book, half chapter book by the fabulous Sally Lloyd Jones. As humbling as it is for me to admit, this beautiful little Bible has helped me connect quite a few dots in my own biblical education.
Sally Lloyd Jones explains the big picture of the Bible, revealing the true pulse of redemption in a way that should be repeated in every pulpit the globe over. Feast your souls on the faithful mercies of our Savior while you feast your senses on the vivid renderings of the best story ever told, told one of the best ways I’ve ever heard.
The Children’s Bible by Golden Press, read by Mama
Age to read aloud: age 5 and up
Children’s Bibles are my new favorite thing. I think my husband put it best. A few months ago, after reading through some of the Old Testament stories with the kids, my hubby asked me “why don’t they illustrate adult Bibles like this?” I laughed, then stopped short. Why, indeed? We may age, gain wisdom (or not), expand our worldviews . . . but we never, ever outgrow picture books. Illustrations are often as magical as the stories themselves and work synergistically to communicate their shared significance to our lives.
Our Salt-of-the-Earth-Storytime often impacts my and my husband’s biblical education as much as it does our kids’. Every new child’s Bible we read through together provides yet another layer to our understanding of God’s Word in much the same way that every trip to the garden, mountains, or forest reveals yet another mystery of our Creator.
Out of all the children’s Bibles we have, this one wins the award for best illustrated. While the stories themselves are often written a bit strangely, even skipping important details from time to time, the rich, authentic illustrations wash away much of my criticism. My opinion is that as a part of a children’s Bible collection, The Children’s Bible certainly earns its place on the shelf.
Favorite Audiobooks of 2022 (as chosen by the kids!)
The Captain (age 7)
- The Dimwood Forest Series by Avi
- The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner
- The Basil of Baker Street Series by Eve Titus
- The Imagination Station Book Series by Marianne Hering (on the Adventures in Odyssey Fan Club app)
- The Beverly Clearly Collection
- The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Goldilocks (age 4)
- The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones
- Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd Jones
- The Complete Beatrix Potter Collection
- Rikki-Tikki-Tavi retold by Jerry Pinkney
- My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet
- Socks by Beverly Cleary
- Grimm’s Fairytales Collection (Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, and The Frog Prince)
- Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Thanks so much for reading! May many beautiful books bless your home this year!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~
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