Along with Go Mighty, I’ve partnered with Next Generation and theClinton Foundation to sponsor this post as part of the Too Small to Failcampaign. Together, we’re working to close The Word Gap.

I do a lot of things wrong as a parent, but one thing I feel good about is raising kids who love to read. Our kids’ beds are regularly hidden under piles of books. And while all four of our kids have regular early bedtimes, we let them stay up as late as they want—as long as they are reading. However, once most of the kids learned to read indendantly, we stopped the habit of reading together as a family. The kids went off to their quarters and read alone, and I relished the break.

However, recently I learned about the benefits of reading aloud, even after kids have master basic literacy. It’s still really helpful in language development, not to mention family bonding. There’s something about all of us sitting on the couch together getting immersed in a story for the first time. Of course, it can be a challenge to find a book that appeals to our spread of ages and—this is important—a book that also captures our attention as parents. But one book I loved as a child, and always wanted to read with my kids, is the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series.

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It took some work to convince my kids of the value of this series, but they ended up loving it.  I didn’t know how the boys would respond, since my children are basically little prejudiced gender-police enforcers and, despite my best efforts, turn their nose up at any show, movie, or book that doesn’t feature a child of their same sex as a prominent character.  Apparently, Pa’s manly background role won the boys over, and we’ve been reading through the first book as a family. It’s historical fiction on a child’s level, full of virtue and family values, and I hope it continues to remind them of what life was like back then and make them grateful for what they have today. (In the first book, Laura’s only toy is a corn cob she pretended was a doll! And she loved it! Take that, Apple products.

I didn’t remember that there was an entire chapter that went into gory detail on the slaughtering of a pig, which of course my boys found to be AWESOME.  You should have seen their faces when we got to the part (and the picture) were the girls play with the pigs bladder that Pa has blown up into a balloon. Ewww! To be fair, due to my vegan-curious tendencies, my kids have never seen so much as a raw steak in the way of meat prep . . . so this was a bit of an education for them.  I’ll never forget last year, Jafta saying to me, “Mom, wouldn’t it be crazy if the chicken we eat was the same thing as the animal?  That would be weird.”

Um, yeah.  About that.

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It’s still so much fun reading it with them . . . even with the lengthy description of deep-frying the pig’s tail.  I don’t think they’re quite ready for a viewing of Food Inc., so the Laura Ingalls Wilder series will have to do for now.

Next up, I’m hoping to introduce the kids to Narnia.  For kids, the stories are great whether you get the symbolism or not. I like the fact that the kids in these books (Edmund, Eustace) make huge mistakes and fail spectacularly… but eventually find redemption.


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