When I first launched Twenty by Jenny back in April, I mentioned that some of my favorite memories of growing up involved my brother and me sitting on either side of my mother as she read aloud to us. She often read books that would have been difficult for me to read by myself at the age of seven or eight, and my brother wasn’t reading yet. But as long as there were plenty of photos or illustrations, we both had a way into the story or subject.
Similarly, when I was teaching third grade and I read aloud to the students, I always tried to select books that were slightly more challenging than what they might choose on their own. In reading class, naturally, we read together books that most of the children could comprehend and read aloud themselves with relative confidence. But when I read to them, I wanted to pick books that would expand their vocabulary and take them to new places, both literally and figuratively.
Reading aloud was a big part of our holiday celebrations. In a tradition that began with my father’s family, everyone who came to celebrate with us at both Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve had something to read. We family members all had established readings. My father always read “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers” by Felicia Dorothea Hemans, and his brother Chris always read “When the Frost Is on the Pumpkin” at Thanksgiving. For Christmas, my mother always read “Dear Virginia,” and her mother would read “ ’Twas the Night Before Christmas” with all of us cousins flanking her on the couch so we could see the pictures--Heather, the youngest, sat on Gramma’s lap. Immediately, even first-time guests felt a part of the celebration (shy guests could choose a four-line poem with a punch line).
All of this to say that the holidays are a perfect time to read a good book together aloud. (If you’re feeling hesitant, here are a few tips.) Harry Potter reminded us how wonderful it is to dive into another world with the entire family along for the journey. A break from school and some time off from work creates another opportunity to enjoy a book together as a family, and Yummy and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon are two books that the entire family can enjoy. Each has self-contained shorter sections, too, which allow you to dip in and out or read the whole book—depending on whether it’s a bedtime ritual or an afternoon-long adventure (in the case of Mountain—Yummy you could still finish up rather quickly). If you will be spending the holidays with older children, ages 12-up, then The Book Thief is an excellent read-aloud choice. Remember: You are never too old to be read to.