Contrary to what may be popular belief, I didn't start reading to Eisley when she was a baby. I always saw myself as the mom who would pull her baby onto her lap, choosing a handful of board books to read, pointing out shapes and colors and letters. I would do it here and there throughout the first year-or-so of her life, but it didn't happen on a regular basis until I stopped breastfeeding Eisley when she was just shy of 18 months. Up until that point, nap time and bedtimes consisted of snuggles and breastfeeding, then right to bed. Once our routine changed, it was the perfect time to add in stories before tucking her in at night. It happened rather naturally, and just like that, it became a treasured part of each day.
Since that time, we always, always read before nap time and bedtime. (I can honestly think of only a few days when we haven't read a book before going to bed, and I'm pretty sure it was due to either traveling or her being sick.) I love that this tradition has become so cherished by Eisley, especially because some of my fondest childhood memories involve being snuggled beside my mom as she read books to my sisters and I. Library hauls, holiday books, tattered favorites. I learned to fall in love with beautiful illustrations and captivating stories at what felt like a very young age.
I'm grateful Eisley has the same love of reading as I do, because although I've done my part in intentionally creating time in our days for reading (and having many books available for Eisley to look at whenever she would like), I understand it is partly a personality thing. She has always been happy to sit still for stories, and I know some children are much less willing! (I sometimes wonder if Cora will be the child doing somersaults through the living room while I read aloud to her when she's older. She seems to be incredibly laid-back, but who knows? Time will tell!)
This is all to say that books mean the world to Eisley. And it has been quite delightful for me to realize that she is the perfect age to start introducing chapter books to our read-aloud repertoire. For a while, I thought it would be ridiculous to read a chapter book—one without any pictures at all on the majority of the pages—to a preschooler, and simply didn't try. But more and more I've been pleasantly surprised when I introduce different challenges or concepts that are beyond my daughter's age range (or, at least, what our modern culture tends to expect preschoolers are capable of).
So, one day I asked myself: Why not try?
I browsed a few book lists I found online, and ultimately ended up checking out Stuart Little on a whim one afternoon at the library. And Eisley absolutely loved it. (I had never read it before then, and found the story completely bizarre and kind of confusing. But she giggled and begged for more chapters every day!) After a while I realized I still preferred our regular picture books for reading before bedtime, opting to add more read-aloud time to our days: while she ate a snack, after we had lunch, during bath time, or while she was coloring or doing some other creative activity. And more often than not, I found she was able to sit still and listen to the story much longer than I would have thought. She fell in love with so many of the characters and would talk about things that happened within the pages of a chapter book long after we finished reading.
I know there are many, many booklists out there (hello, Pinterest!) but I wanted to share the books we've read during her preschool year. (And also let you know the handful that we quit before finishing!)
As for the books we started but never finished, they include Winnie the Pooh (I've heard this is a wonderful read-aloud, but although we made it through about half of this classic tale, I found the language a bit complicated to read to a preschooler, and she didn't understand much of the wittiness that is meant for someone a wee bit older), Ramona the Brave (they didn't have the version with the newer artwork at the library and, oddly, it made Eisley much less interested because she didn't recognize the illustrations on the cover or inside), Charlotte's Web (we started it and I made the mistake of letting her watch the movie before we finished the book, so she lost interest in us reading the story—lesson learned!), and the Junie B. Jones series (we tried one book but I couldn't handle the main character's dreadful attitude and overall brattiness).
After we finish the Ramona series, I have a few books in mind to pick up next. The Little House series is probably my favorite of all time (I try to read the entire series once every year or two), so as much as I want to read them to her now, I may wait a bit to be sure she appreciates them as much as her mama. I'm thinking we may try another Beverly Cleary favorite (The Mouse and the Motorcycle, perhaps?), Pippi Longstocking, or another in the Catwings series (I just now realized there are more!).
I'd love to hear of any chapter books you've enjoyed reading to your own younger children—or any you remember loving as a child. I'm compiling a list of books to read with Eisley this summer and during her kindergarten year, and would love to hear any recommendations you may have!
— Further reading: princess books (when you need a break from Disney!)
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