Books (about books) that changed my parenting

I’ve read a lot of parenting books. I’ve highlighted, underlined, dog-eared, and returned to them over and over on this journey of raising kids.

One of the biggest surprises to me, however, were these three books. I never expected books that were about books to change the way I parent my children. But these did.

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The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease started it all. I wanted to get more ideas for quality literature to read with my kids. With so many choices out there, it was really important to me that I knew how to discern what was best. So, I was basically looking for a list (this book has a great one), but what I got was a lesson: reading aloud is vital, not just when kids are small, but when they’re older, too. And I haven’t parented the same since I found out why. I checked this book out from the local library, devoured it, and then had to buy a copy to keep on my bookshelf forever. So, there you go.

My husband and I traveled a lot before we had kids. We still travel, but it’s not quite as straightforward as it used to be with four kids under 7. I came across Jamie C. Martin’s Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time early on in parenting, when I was really longing for travel, but just didn’t have the energy, time, or money to do so. I decided that we could start traveling right within our home, that reading aloud was an opportunity to go anywhere around the world together. This book gave me tons of ideas that have allowed us to share different places and people with our children which has been one of the greatest joys of parenting. I still add little notes to each country’s section if we discover a brand new book about a specific place that I want to add to Jamie’s amazing list.

Finally, this one is now a big-time podcast, movement, global conversation, with it’s author Sarah Mackenzie speaking all over the place and changing the world with her Read Aloud Revival: The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids. Sarah was also heavily influenced by Jim Trelease, and her contribution to the subject of reading aloud with your kids continues the discussion in some beautiful, creative, and practical ways. I have different and more meaningful everyday conversations with my kids based on this book’s advice. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Brazilian writer Mario Quintana said, “Books don’t change the world, people change the world, books only change people.” These books have certainly changed our family for the better.

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Skipping School

Today we skipped our regular morning routine and took off on a nature hike instead. We saw a blue heron and a raccoon fishing side by side in the soft morning light. We identified a plant I’d never heard of before – a beautyberry – and discovered that it is native to Japan and plays a role in a famous work of Japanese folklore, The Tale of Genji (which now I have to read because it sounds so interesting!). And this was all in the first five minutes of our walk…

I think it’s safe to say we found some ‘school’ out there in Nature.

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Quoth the Raven

[Kids Sometimes Like It When You Read Stuff That’s Not Kid Stuff]

This sounds like a terrible psychological experiment or some form of torture, but I recently read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” aloud to my 7, 5 and 3 year-old on a dark night in the middle of a thunderstorm, and they got a huge kick out of it.

I didn’t mean for this to happen, at all, but here is how it happened:

We were finishing up dinner on our screened porch when a huge summer storm took us by surprise. The wind blew in and the thunder crashed right over our heads. It was magical and terrifying, but the kids seemed to be okay because we were there, enjoying the heck out of it with them. It felt like Halloween feels when you’re young – it freaks you out, but you’re still not going to miss it for the world.

The power went off and we lit candles on the long wooden farm table where we were eating. When I went to the mantle to get the matches, I noticed (eerily) my copy of Poe’s greatest works sitting there. I had just bought this book because of another book that suggested his short story, “The Purloined Letter” was a metaphor for love (questionable), so I was curious to read that story. We had also just taken a family trip where we had seen a house that was dedicated to Poe’s life and writing, so he seemed to keep coming up. The book contains a collection of Poe’s poems as well, among which is “The Raven.”  I thought, if any poem needs to be read in a slightly scary voice in a pretty frightening thunderstorm to some small children it would be this one.

You should have seen my kids faces. They had no idea what the poem was about, but Poe’s language (and my enthusiasm for it), and maybe just their pure fear, kept them rapt. And even though it was a fun experience for me to share it, I didn’t think anyone would remember it – maybe the storm and our exciting family time on the porch – but not the obscure poem.

A few days ago, my five year-old came rushing into the kitchen from the yard, and asked me breathlessly, “Mama, what was it that that bird kept saying over and over again?”

It took a minute for me to register what he was talking about, but then I remembered Poe.

“Nevermore?” I said.

“Yes, that’s it!” he said, and he flew back outside.

Then I heard him shouting, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” as he ran into the woods, half-clad, chasing his brother with a homemade spear.

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If you haven’t read or don’t remember “The Raven,” here it is for your next stormy night.

And if you’re wanting to dive more deeply into some Poe, here you go.

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Francophiles

Our family loves France. Mark and I have visited many times, lots of different areas. We finally took some of the kids there this summer. The littlest ones stayed at home with their grandmothers (and had a blast!) while we went on an adventure with the oldest two.

We were in Paris for a few days and then drove down to the Dordogne Valley, one of our favorite regions. For the last week, we drove to the Pyrenees and stayed in a tiny farm village before crossing the mountains to fly out of Barcelona.

Here are the boys watching sheep at night in the Pyrenees:

Our ride on Le Petit Train d’Artouste:

And just a few of the books we enjoyed on our trip:

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Pack them all up and take them with you or read them at home for a little French getaway…

Katie and the Impressionists

And for all the Katie books (so wonderful!):

Paris Up, Up and Away

Joan of Arc

Anatole

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

Charlotte in Paris

A Giraffe Goes to Paris

Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea: The Eiffel Tower (The Story Behind the Name)

Oh, and there are SO many more we didn’t take on our trip (because we’ve read them 100 times already). Here are just a few:

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Letters to Young (and old) Readers

I have finally picked up this book after wanting to for a long time. My friend, Julie, recommended it to me again this week, over coffee, and now it’s sitting in a place of prominence on my counter. It’s gorgeous. I’m going to savor it in little morsels. The first letter I read was David Whyte’s. He’s a favorite of mine because his book, The Heart Aroused, is what kept my love for poetry alive as an adult. I loved his letter.

A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader (edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick)

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You can add the book to your collection or buy it for a friend (I’ve done both!)

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Seeing Stars 🌟

Two great ones about women stars of astronomy.

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And we really enjoyed Moonshot, by Brian Floca as we celebrated the moon landing 50th anniversary this past weekend.

To the MOON!!

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Updated!! Adding one to the mix. Just got it, and it looks SO wonderful…I mean, look at that gorgeous iridescent cover…and greasy fingerprints all over it!

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Support your local bookstore when you can! If you can’t, here are links for getting these:

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Vivaldi’s Seasons

Vivaldi spent many years teaching his most famous pieces to an orchestra made up of orphaned and abandoned girls…it’s really an amazing story.

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We started off this season listening to “Summer” from The Four Seasons, and I think we’ll continue the tradition for the rest of the year with the remaining seasons. Knowing more about the composers makes classical music so much more fun and interesting for me.

Poetry for All

I’m a huge believer in poetry. Poetry for life, poetry for love, poetry to save the world, and so forth.

And I am definitely a believer that kids should have poetry, too.

Here are just a few of our anthologies from around the house. I really really love for beginner poets is Nesbitt’s One Minute till Bedtime. These poems could be read anytime, not just before bed, and are loved by all ages! Also a big fan of Firefly July, for the poems but also the gorgeous illustrations.

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Links to purchase these:

** I participate in the Amazon Affiliate Program. Please support your local bookstore when you can, but if you do purchase through any affiliate links, I will receive a small commission. Thank you. **

Summer Reading, Part Now

I wrote a post a few years ago about summer reading for physicians.

Slightly different audience (because of where I am in life), but same topic: Summer reading for seven year-olds.

We chose Mary Pope Osborne’s (of Magic Treehouse fame) Tales from the Odyssey, and my son is just loving it.

There are some pretty gory parts, so i’ve had to censor a bit on the fly, but if you’re comfortable with that I think it’s so worthwhile to introduce these amazing classic stories early!

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Add them to your bookshelf:

Tales from the Odyssey, Part 1

Tales from the Odyssey, Part 2

I have the Lambs’ Tales from Shakespeare lined up next…

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