A Little Bedtime Reading

When my kids were babies, we started them on a bedtime routine that included a story. They’d snuggle up on our laps and we’d look at a picture book — probably one we’d read a hundred times already — and we’d read out loud, then tuck them in.

Our older two — ages 7 1/2 and just-turned-six — are beyond the picture-book stage, though. We still love to read to them at night, but it is getting harder to find appropriate books. We’re looking for novels, longer books that will allow them to get involved with the characters and story, and also to have to remember what has happened from day to day. We want something that is family friendly and age appropriate – not too scary, not involving awkward dating issues. We’re also trying to encourage them to read by themselves at their own level, so we don’t want to read any bedtime books that they really could be reading themselves.

So these magical books have to be a) advanced chapter books but b) not TOO advanced and c) classics we can all enjoy. Not too much of a tall order, no?

I thought I’d post about this in order to get some ideas from anyone else in this spot. What are you reading your Grade 1 and Grade 2 kids at night?

Here’s what we’ve tried so far in our quest to move beyond picture books. Gal Smiley, at age 6, prefers books where “something happens” right away – she has no patience for a slow build. So, like her brother before her, we are finding that short stories work well.

So far we have read Louis Sachar’s Wayside Books (start with Sideways Stories from Wayside School) — each story is the perfect bedtime story length and your kid will find them hilarious. We also read the A.A. Milne Winnie-The-Pooh books (we have them all collected into one volume called The World Of Pooh). They’re also really funny (although that last one is QUITE the tearjerker, have tissues ready or skip it altogether), and the stories are long enough that they can be broken over two or three nights.

Right now we are reading Pippi Longstocking by Lindgren and it’s a big hit. It’s funny right from the first page and although it’s a novel, it reads more like a series of short stories. I’m not sure what’s next up for her – I thought I might try Little House On The Prairie, or I’ve heard really good things about The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton – does anyone know if that is action-packed yet not too scary?

The Captain has been through all the Flat Stanley books, and they were a hit, and he’s also read a few of the slower moving classics like The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary and Stuart Little by E.B. White. He also enjoyed Freckle Juice by Judy Blume and he’s currently reading James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, which is weird as Dahl usually is, but doesn’t seem to be causing too many nightmares. He also recently read the first Harry Potter book – I’m iffy on those in terms of scariness but he seems to be doing okay. I think he and Sir Monkeypants are going to tackle the second book soon, but after that we will take a break from Harry for a while until the Captain is old enough to handle them.

I have a list of other books I loved as a child that I’m anxious to share, but I’m not sure my kids are ready for them yet. Any suggestions for six and seven year olds?

29 thoughts on “A Little Bedtime Reading

  1. Tudor

    Little House on the Prairie, definitely. My boys really loved this whole series, as did I, and I enjoyed discovering Farmer Boy which, for some reason, I don’t remember reading as a kid. Also Anne of Green Gables. There are so many great, great, great children’s books with a female protagonist that I made a point of reading them to my sons before they could get old enough to not be interested in “girl” books. This way they have the exposure stockpiled and they can go merrily forward reading Percy Jackson and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

  2. The Magic Faraway Tree is bloody BRILLIANT… it’s one of my favourite favourite stories from childhood. Very descriptive and easy to imagine yourself in the world. I can’t wait to read it to my kids. There isn’t anything scary in it and it has strong ‘good over bad’ sorts of messages.

    Let me know what you think of it!

    1. I tried to put it on hold at our library and they don’t even have a copy! I’ve heard nothing but great things about it though, so I ordered it from Amazon. It’s up soon!

  3. I know what you’re really looking for is book recommendations, but I had to add the following anyhow:

    It’s great that you’re encouraging them to read at their own level by themselves, but there’s nothing wrong with also reading at their level as part of the routine. As a former English teacher, I can assure you (without digging through my materials for statistics) that this is still a very valuable exercise for their learning and for fostering a family culture that encourages reading.

    So even if they have their own book (or series) on the go for their private reading time, you can have a second book or series that’s part of your family nighttime ritual.

    As a side note, if you haven’t had anyone read to you since you were a kid, you owe it to yourself to give it a try sometime! Admittedly, I don’t know where you’d find the time as a mother, but before I became a dad my wife and I had engaged in a nighttime ritual of reading to each other (well, mostly me reading to her). And it wasn’t even “at our level,” it was the Series of Unfortunate Events, which we slowly got through over the course of two years, a few pages at a time.

    Adults and children alike can really get something out of reading as part of the bedtime ritual, and reading level has actually very little to do with it! You’re still encouraging reading as a part of the family culture. Which is great!

    1. This is a great point you make. We made it through the Captain Underpants series this summer with our son, and at first I regretted reading it to him because he could have read it himself. But now I find him reading them again, by himself, all the time, and I think he maybe wouldn’t have thought to pick them up on his own if he didn’t already know and love the stories. So it worked out to be a great way to get him reading on his own — I will have to keep this in mind when we are looking for new titles.

  4. I can highly recommend the Swallows and Amazons series by Arthur Ransom. My Dad read them to me when I was about that age. It’s about 2 families of children who have sailing and camping adventures together.

    I have a few myself, although as a child I was read the library copies. You can borrow mine if you’d like.

    I also really loved two series by Enid Blyton: The Famous Five and the Secret Seven.

    Secret Seven:http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Seven-Enid-Blyton/dp/0340917547/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1286902357&sr=1-4

    Famous Five:http://www.amazon.com/Five-Treasure-Island-Famous/dp/0340796146/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1286902430&sr=1-1

    From an amazon.com review:The format for the books is essentially the same – a band of children get into a series of adventures thwarting criminals and solving mysteries. It’s like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but imbued with that classic British idiom and that fast-paced, expertly crafted Blyton style that give it an edge over her American counterparts.

    1. I just looked up Swallows and Amazons on Amazon.ca and the reviews there are amazing. Person after person talks about how they loved the books as both children and adults and couldn’t put them down…and how they turned non-readers into readers. Awesome! I have requested the first volume from the library, I’m sure the Captain at the very least is going to love it.

      As for Enid Blyton, the Ottawa library system is awful for stocking her titles — they didn’t have Magic Faraway Tree and they have only two or three each of the Secret Seven and Famous Five books. For now I have gone ahead and ordered the Tree books for us to read…there may be more in our future!

      1. I read Swallows and Amazons for a Lit class in University and absolutely loved it. Why hadn’t I known about it when I was an awkward kid? Give it a go.

  5. Here’s a few that my girls have liked:
    -Magic Treehouse series
    -Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series (ND is 8 in these and all of the “crimes” are committed by the wind or the cat etc.)
    -Judy Moody
    -Boxcar Children series (older and bit hard to find)
    -Diary of a Wimpy Kid
    -Cam Jansen series
    -Encyclopedia Brown
    -Anything Enid Blyton
    -All the Ramona books (Beverly Cleary)
    -Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys (my grade 3 girl devours these but yours may still be a bit young..and they can be scary!)

    Fun 🙂

    1. Awesome ideas, Finola! My husband loved Encyclopedia Brown as a kid so we were wondering if they translated well to current times. We also have had a couple of Magic Treehouse books on tape for long car rides and they were a huge hit, we should move on to the actual texts for sure.

      I’m impressed you liked the Ramona series, though. We tried one just last week and my kids found it too slow (MUCH to my disappointment – I adored those books as a kid). I wonder if they are too jaded from watching TV to enjoy gentle stories about everyday life. I will definitely be trying them again, but a few years down the road.

  6. Loved reading everyone’s suggestions. My 8 year old is in love with the Fairy books – the pet fairies, weather fairies, rainbow fairies and so on. It’s a little mind numbing for me, but she’s struggling reader so I go with what she loves. We’ve (meaning I read to her) also read the Wizard of Oz, the Velveteen Rabbit and the Secret Garden. The Wizard of Oz was her favourite

    1. We’d love to have a big series to get into, so I’ll check out the fairy books. At the very least I know my youngest will adore them in a year or two.

      And the Wizard of Oz is going on my immediate read list!

  7. Currently I’m reading The Hobbit to Liam (7 1/2) and Simon (almost 4). Liam LOOOOVES it and even Simon will happily sit while I read (although he’s free to leave if he’s uninterested). They also love The Chronicles of Narnia. My sister is reading Anne of Green Gables to her 8 and 5 year old boys and they seem to be enjoying it… although they were a bit embarrassed to admit it!

    1. This is great news! My husband and I are both huge LOTR fans and we have been counting down the days to when we can break out The Hobbit. We both read it when we were 10, in Grade 5, so we were thinking we’d have to wait another couple of years…but now, we’ll probably get it out tonight :).

  8. Gah, if I never read another Whoever the Whatever Fairy book again….:). I’m reading the third Percy Jackson book to Angus (he’s ten) — we’ve also read the Winnie the Pooh books, Magic Tree House books (my God will someone please edit that woman), The Golden Compass and Eve is crazy over Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody. The Time Warp Trio books are kind of fun for boys too. I have all the Little House books but I wasn’t sure about when to introduce them. I have the Magic Faraway Tree books which I adored when I was young, but I’ve been a little afraid to crack them again in case they didn’t live up to the memory. Also, did you read the Madeleine L’Engle books (Wrinkle in Time etc.)? I tried How to Train your Dragon with Eve but it didn’t take. She loved Coraline, though — go figure.

    1. Hm, we will try Coraline. I loved that movie. The others are on my list but like you, I’m not sure when to introduce them. I guess every kid is different — our son seems ready for meatier stuff but our six-year-old daughter likes things with at least one or two laughs on each page and nothing too deep. I imagine she will really love Judy Blume!

  9. Little House on the Praire and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe were my favorite books growing up but my 8 & 10 year old girls aren’t interested…yet. I am hopeful. 🙂 My oldest daughter loved Nancy Drew Series and Ivy and Bean books. Now she’s devouring 39 Clues but I’m not impressed so far with that series. My youngest loves the Magic Treehouse. Will investigate the other fun suggestions – thanks!

  10. With Hana we’ve done what Greg recommends. Some of the chapter books she reads on her own and other she reads with us. Right now she’s totally captivated by the Pony Crazed Princess series, so that’s what she’s been reading by herself.

    We’ve read a bunch of the Fairy books, though thankfully she seems to have worn out her interest in them. We’ve read some of the Tinkerbell books, too, which I find a bit better. We did The Mouse and the Motorcycle and I was surprised by how slow-moving it was. Different style of writing for kids then. We also read Bunnicula, which Hana thought was fun and a bit weird (and I agree).

    We read a couple of Junie B Jones, but honestly–I just couldn’t take more than that. I’m not at all a fan. She just seemed rude. On the other hand, we loved Captain Underpants, so I’m not exactly consistent in my assessments of kids lit. I just thought Captain Underpants was so much fun to read out loud in dramatic fashion.

    Oh! The Club Penguin books are kind of fun, in that they’re the type where at the end of each chapter you choose what the character should do next and then skip to a different chapter depending on your choice. It was kind of fascinating to see the decisions Hana made.

    I have the Little House and Ann of Green Gables books all set aside to read at some point, but haven’t delved into them yet. I think she’ll get more out of them in a year or two.

    1. Seriously, there is a series called Pony Crazed Princess??? I’m off to Google. If this is for real, my youngest daughter will never want to read anything else, EVER.

      Thanks for the feedback about Junie. I’ve heard mixed things about her. I think we’ll pass for the time being — probably they will discover those on their own.

  11. What a great post and awesome book ideas. Lots has been said but I’ll add some more.
    We like Cam Jansen books (David Adler) for both the “Young” verson for early readers and the chapter books too. A girly one but not too bad is “Green Princess Saves the Day” (Alyssa Crowne) and others in the series – girl power! The Canadian Flyer Adventures are great for boys and girls (Frieda Wishinsky) with Canadian history for kids. I loved everything Madeline L’Engle -Wrinkle in Time, etc. Great reads with strong characters. Just found a choose your own adventure type book that looks great for my girl (age 7) – “Fork in th Trail” (Laurie Calkhoven – American Girl – got it at Michaels of all places.)
    Anyway, happy reading! So much to enjoy and it’s great to make it a habit.

  12. Loved Nancy Drew, Little House, Anne of Green Gables and Chronicles of Narnia when I was young. I still re-read them every now and then too.

    Judy Blume was also a big hit, especially Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and the Fudge books.

    I loved the Trixie Belden books (though they may be a bit advanced just yet).

    Louisa May Alcott wrote a book called “Eight Cousins” (sometimes referred to as “The Aunt-Hill” and a sequel called “A Rose in Bloom”. They’re more kid-friendly than the “Little Women” books, which, if I’m remembering correctly more faster too.

    If Nancy Drew is a bit too much, try the Bobbsey Twins books. With two sets of mystery-solving twins (one set in Grade Six and the other in Grade One) the mysteries are pretty tame and the chapters short and action packed.

    I also loved the “Katy Did” books by Susan Coolidge.

    Finally the “Shoe” books were another favourite . . . “Ballet Shoes”, “Dancing Shoes”, etc. by Noel Streatfeild. If I remember correctly, there are about 10 “Shoe” books in all.

    Ah, reading. How I love you so!

  13. Fiona

    Our children are 71/2 and 5 and in the past year we’ve loved ALL the Beverly Cleary books, the Clementine books, Chronicles of Narnia, Hotel for Dogs (note: the movie is terrible and not based on the book), Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter and Little House in the Big Woods audiobooks are amazing for car rides, and many of the original Hardy Boys series.

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