When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud?

Be warned: I am not a spontaneous person. Some people might look at our daily routine and weep over the repetition of it all, but I’m cool with that. I find that repetition comforting and conducive to productivity, but if you find it dull and horrifying, then—fair warning—this particular post might not be for you.

When Do We Read Aloud? | Little Book, Big Story

Moving on: We make a point of reading together at set times every day. As the kids grow and increase in number, these times have shifted, but they tend to stay centered around meals and bedtimes, because that is when we’re consistently together and typically seated.

I advocate for establishing a habit of reading because I suspect that the odds of us all feeling like sitting down to read a chapter out of a chapter book at the same time are not good, and if it does happen, it probably won’t happen every day. And to keep kids interested in the overarching narrative of a chapter book, I think they need to hear a bit of the story every day.

So, because I like making lists and schedules and spread sheets, I’m sharing a sample day at Chez Rosenburg with you. This is not every day, but it is an average day. Enjoy!

Early morning

Mitch and I wake at 5, make tea, and read our Bibles. He sometimes reads other things after that; I write. The girls play quietly or read or do what sounds like Riverdance upstairs from 6:30-7. And then the day officially begins.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

Lunch

I eat lunch with the older girls, then pile a mound of blueberries on Phoebe’s tray to keep her quiet and read a story aloud from the Jesus Storybook Bible. We used to read story bibles at bedtime, but as Lydia and Sarah have gotten older, we’ve advanced to more challenging evening readings. But I do like knowing that the little ones still get that big picture view of Scripture, so even if it means reading over Phoebe’s post-lunch screeching, I press on.

I consider it a success if we do this three times a week.

Naps

After lunch, I put Phoebe to bed (and read The Three Musketeers while I nurse her). Then Lydia, Sarah, and I tangle up comfortably on the couch and read a chapter from our current book (All-Of-A-Kind Familyby Sydney Taylor). I escort Sarah upstairs for her quiet time. She often insists on bringing our read-aloud book up with her, so she can look at the pictures and improvise her own story lines (loudly) while she rests.

When Do We Find Time to Read Aloud? | Little Book, Big Story

After Sarah is settled, I grab both my Bible and Lydia’s and join her in our room, where she does quiet time. We read a chapter together from my reading plan (currently the book of Matthew), underlining verses that stood out to us and talking (very minimally) about certain parts of the passage. This time quietly slipped into our schedule and has become one of the best parts of my day.

I leave her with stack of books and head out to the living room—or, on a nice day, the porch—where I read, nap, write, and/or plan art lessons until Phoebe wakes up and we kick off the afternoon.

BedTime

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds | Starr Meade

While I put Phoebe to bed, Mitch takes Lydia and Sarah through our catechism reading (from Training Hearts, Teaching Minds), then reads to them from a chapter book (currently Half Magicby Edward Eager). I grab my sketchbook once Phoebe’s down and join Sarah on the floor. We draw together—often scenes from our book, since these books tend to be well above her reading level—while Lydia curls up with Mitch on the couch.

With all three girls down, the house feels bigger and quieter—until someone comes downstairs because someone else won’t stop talking and is keeping her awake. But eventually, the chirping upstairs drops to a murmur and Mitch and I drift out to the comfy chairs on the front porch or flop limply onto the couch and watch The West Wing.

When we go to bed, we bring books. I read another chapter in my Bible and then a novel until I can’t hold my eyes open anymore. Mitch reads or plays a game on the iPad until he can’t hold his eyes open anymore.

Lights out.

Reading the Bible as a family | Little Book, Big Story

That might look like a lot of reading, but these chapter-long chunks of time spent together have become the sweet points in our day, the marshmallows in our Lucky Charms, and we get in big trouble with the little people in our home when we skip them for any reason, however reasonable.

Occasionally, I add other things into our routine (like poetry at snack time), or we drop things for time to accommodate new babies or a change in school routines. But this is the way things look right now.

When do you read with your family?

 

A poem for Story Warren and a free peek at Deeply Rooted

This past week, while I was exploring the Washington Coast with my family and ignoring the internet, my poem “Reading Lessons” appeared on the most wonderful Story Warren. As always, their blog is worth a long perusal, preferably with a warm beverage in hand.

Deeply Rooted Magazine, Issue 6: Summer | Little Book, Big Story

Also, Deeply Rooted announced that they shall henceforth offer free previews of their issues online! My review of Gloria Furman’s book, Glimpses of Grace, is part of the preview for the most recent issue, alongside Mandalyn Renicker‘s article “Seeing Life Like Lewis,” Brian Sauve’s “Marriage Makes,” Lindsay Cournia‘s “Put on Love,” and more.

You can read more about why Deeply Rooted has decided to offer these previews here, and you can preview the issue itself here.

The Wingfeather Saga | Andrew Peterson

The trouble with reviewing only books that I like is that I have to find one hundred clever ways to say, “I liked this book.” I try to throw out the adjectives—beautiful! amazing! wonderful!—and do my best to explain what I liked about a book and why you might like it, too.

But I couldn’t do that here. My first thought when I sat down to write was THESE BOOKS ARE AMAZING!

My new favorite series: The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

For three drafts, I couldn’t get past it. Every time I opened this post, that sentence—These books are amazing—beat the rest of the English language out of my head. Andrew Peterson has written exactly the sort of story I was longing for when I wrote about the difficulty of writing Christian characters, and he has done it in a way that reminds me fondly of Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter, and Narnia all at once.

Peterson’s sense of timing is just right, his use of language is a beautiful thing to behold, and his jokes are spot on. I liked Andrew Peterson immediately for having the sense to throw in that extra “dark” in the title of the first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Without it, the title would be bland. With it, it was perfect. (The title of the second book—North! Or Be Eaten—is even better.)

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

Peterson’s world of Aerwiar is full of wonders—new hollows, and deeps and cities to discover with each story—but I can’t tell you much about the adventures Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby have in it without spoiling major plot points. But oh, how I want to! I wanted badly to discuss these books with someone as I read, but I could think of only one other person I knew who had read them—he is ten and was out of town—so I was left to laugh, cry, and rejoice alone.

(Mitch is reading them now, so that shall soon be remedied.)

The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson | Little Book, Big Story

These books are exactly what I think art by Christians ought to be: beautiful and complex, joyful but brutally sad at times, and so well-crafted that they faithfully reflect the work of our Creator. They are not safe or neatly allegorical. They do not close with a sterile moral. But while Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga tells a story framed in a Christian worldview, that story is not told only to Christians. It is a great story by any standards that points, in the right places, toward the Gospel.

In the words of Oskar Reteep (quoting Shank Po), I exhort you: “Get thee busy.” You have books to read.


The Wingfeather Saga
Andrew Peterson (2008-2014)

The Sword of Abram | ND Wilson

For years I have followed a Bible reading plan that lures me into the nooks and crannies of Scripture. Without it, I’d be tempted to stick to the well-lit spaces: Ephesians, Luke, the Gospels. With it, I find myself greeting the day with a reading from Numbers, or forced to reckon with the strangeness of Daniel. I want the easily understood—Judges refuses to be that. But my reading plan takes me through Judges anyway. And through these lesser known, unsafe stories, I learn to love new facets of the Lord: I see his steadfastness in a new light, or come to understand a little more the way he works in lives of his people.

The Sword of Abram, by ND Wilson | Little Book, Big Story

The best story Bibles dive into some of these nooks and crannies. But I haven’t seen many picture books that move beyond the top five Bible stories: Genesis, Noah, Daniel in the lion’s den, the Christmas and Easter stories.

N.D. Wilson (author of 100 Cupboards) plunges off the well-trodden path of children’s Bible stories and writes about Abram, not yet Abraham. This isn’t the story of Abraham’s journey to fatherhood, but of Abram’s journey to faith. It’s a small book filled with battle and striving, and through it Wilson brings to life passages of Scripture often overlooked by adults and unfamiliar to children. Forest Dickison’s illustrations convey a sense of movements, and his paintings pair with Wilson’s language to craft a story of how the Lord works in a human heart.

The Sword of Abram, by ND Wilson | Little Book, Big Story

The Sword of Abram is a part of N.D. Wilson’s series, The Old Stories. I have yet to read the other two books in the series, but have high hopes for them, given the favorable review of In the Time of Noah on Aslan’s Library. Have you read any of the other books? What did you think?


The Sword of Abram
N.D. Wilson, Forest Dickison (2014)

Interlude

There are days when the book reviews come easily, like champagne from an unstopped bottle or—perhaps more fitting to my stage of life—like milk from a toppled glass. And there are days when midsummer sends my thoughts lumbering around like honeybees in the lavender bush. On those days, I want nothing more to sit on the porch with a cup of tea and The Three Musketeers and let my thoughts lumber and buzz.

Today is one of those days. So I’ll send you over to Story Warren, to read Helena Sorensen’s beautiful post, “The School of Wonder.” (But I’ll meet you back here next week with a new review, I promise!)

Ten of My Favorite Adventure Stories

Nap time settles over our house. Those small enough to sleep, sleep. Those too big for naps go into their separate rooms armed with books—many books. I briefly consider washing the dishes from lunch or checking my email, but a breeze sweeps in the screen door and it smells like—oh, like the summers of childhood or something, so I step outside to explore it for a moment.

I come to my senses two hours later in a cushioned porch chair, sunburned and blinking. Somehow, I’m holding North! or Be Eaten.

Ten of My Favorite Adventure Stories | Little Book, Big Story

Today, I have the privilege of introducing you (perhaps you’ve met?) to Mother Daughter Book Reviews, a site that abounds with reviews of children’s literature. I’m serving as a guest poster today and my subject is perfectly summer worthy:

Ten of My Favorite Adventure Stories | Little Book, Big Story

Some are classic; some are recent releases. Many will (hopefully) be new to you! May you spend your summer investigating wardrobes, cupboards, and tollbooths. May you pick up a magic coin, a bandolier of bells, a bow, or a ring linked to enchanted thread. May you steer clear of Voldemort and the toothy cows of Skree.

(You can read the full post here.)


Top Ten Adventure Stories
Théa Rosenburg, Guest Post for Mother Daughter Book Reviews

The Giving Tree | Shel Silverstein

Once, a friend sat on the couch with Lydia, reading The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. Like many of Beatrix Potter’s books, Benjamin Bunny is a meandering story, so while he read and Lydia listened, I went back to making dinner and chatting with his wife. But then, something from the next room caught my ear: it was Lydia, saying, “If my mom was reading this, she would be crying right now.”

I stopped, mid-chop, and burst out laughing. She is mostly correct: I have never cried during Benjamin Bunny, but I do cry, freely and unattractively, during most of the books that we read. That is a fact of our life as family and our daughters have learned to wait patiently until I’m ready to go on (this can take a while in books like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or The Railway Children), even patting my arm in a comforting way or asking, “Are these happy tears? Or sad ones?”

The Giving Tree | Little Book, Big Story

Usually a book elicits one response or the other. But occasionally, we read a story that hits the space right between happy and sad and draws enough of each emotion into my tears that I don’t know how to answer that question. I’m happy because the story is beautiful and because something about it rings true, but I am sad because there’s a bitterness to its truth. It feels like the coming of fall.

The Giving Tree is one of those books. You’ve almost certainly read it or had it read to you as a child; maybe you’ve tried to keep your own voice from trembling as you read it aloud to your children. The Giving Tree is a beautiful story of sacrificial love, one that demonstrates for us what it looks like to give until you have nothing left to give—and then to give away even that nothing.

The Giving Tree | Little Book, Big Story

I had read this book as a child; I had enjoyed it as a child. But rediscovering it as a parent was like peeling back a fresh layer of an onion: the story was sharper than I remembered, sweeter, and, yes, it made my eyes water.


The Giving Tree
Shel Silverstein (1964)