We were trying to decide what book to read next. Brad is going to start reading "The Red Badge of Courage" so that he can attend a book group meeting with the Statesmen book group. While I was trying to find out if it would be an appropriate book to read aloud to the family I found this great article in the New York Times on the importance of reading out loud to you kids.
Hey Brad - another thing we've been doing right all along.
The books that are mentioned look like great ones to add to our collection.Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children: Selections from Shakespeare, Twain, Dickens, O.Henry, London, Longfellow, Irving Aesop, Homer, Cervantes, Hawthorne, and More by William F. Russell
Hey! Listen to This: Stories to Read Aloud - by Jim Trelease
ABOUT EDUCATION; THE VIRTUES OF READING ALOUD
'' READING to your children may be the single most powerful contribution that you, as a parent, can make toward their success in school,'' William F. Russell says.
The one common factor in all children who learned to read easily, he says, is not a high I.Q., not family income, not parents with college degrees. Rather, it is that those children had been read to regularly by their parents from whatever materials happened to be at hand - newspapers, road signs, even product labels.
Still, Dr. Russell, who holds a doctorate in education, prefers good literature, and he offers parents a choice in his new book, ''Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children'' (Crown Publishers, $13.95).
Reading aloud to children may be turning into a national movement. Two years ago, Jim Trelease, a newspaper reporter, artist and father, published ''The Read-Aloud Handbook'' (Penguin Books, $6.95). In an interview he said parents should begin by reading to their 6-month-old infants. By age 2, he added, being read to ought to be a daily activity, preferably before naptime and before going to sleep in the evening.
The prescriptions of Dr. Russell and Mr. Trelease overlap. Mr. Trelease urged that reading aloud be continued in school, from the first day, and at least through elementary school. Dr. Russell agrees but suggests extending the practice into early adolescence. He says it is a mistake for parents to stop reading aloud to their children as soon as they learn to read by themselves.
The complexity and vocabulary of a book that may scare an eighth- grader away may be readily understood when the child hears the work read aloud, Dr. Russell says. Children's first-grade primers, he points out, are written with a controlled vocabulary of only about 350 words, even though most first-graders actually have a ''listening vocabulary'' of almost 10,000 words. In other words, not reading real literature to them is an insult to their intelligence and dulls their appetite for books. Occasionally, Dr. Russell admits, he was tempted by difficult passages to simplify the original text, but as soon as he imagined the authors ''leering'' over his shoulder he left things intact.
Apart from intellectual benefits, much affection can be generated during family reading sessions, bringing children and parents together more effectively than merely watching television might.
In his selected classics, Dr. Russell begins his Level 1, ages 5 to 8, with Hans Christian Andersen's ''The Ugly Duckling'' and concludes with ''The Golden Touch,'' adapted from ''The Wonder Book'' by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Level 2, ages 8 to 11, begins with a selection from Mark Twain and includes an O. Henry story and parts of Romeo and Juliet. Level 3 starts with an excerpt from Stephen Crane's ''The Red Badge of Courage'' and moves to a selection of poems. Finally, he includes ''holiday favorites'' from Easter and Passover to ''A Christmas Carol.'' But in an interview Dr. Russell stressed that the book intends to show parents how to select their own candidates for reading aloud.
Mr. Trelease's book included a guide to more than 300 read-aloud suggestions. The search for materials may lead others to the Seedling Series, paperbacks published quarterly for children by Short Story International. It contains the unabridged works of contemporary writers from all over the world and is available by subscription (P.O. Box 405, Great Neck, N.Y. 11022; four issues for $12.) The series, which is in its fourth year and is aimed at ages 9 to 12, features stories by American and foreign writers.
''We have discovered,'' said Sam Tankel, the publisher, ''that children are fascinated by stories about children, particularly from other countries.''
Since children usually want their favorite stories read over and over again, Dr. Russell urges parents to pick readings that interest them as well. When the adult reader appears uninspired, the message, he warns, is that reading is boring.
Fathers should be as much involved as mothers, Dr. Russell says. Single parents should recruit adult readers of the opposite sex - grandparents, neighbors, friends. The male role, Dr. Russell stresses, is important because children often see reading as a feminine activity: most elementary schoolteachers are women. The male-female issue is especially important for poetry, which is often mistakenly viewed as not a ''manly'' pursuit.
Dr. Russell prefaces each selection with the approximate reading time. He considers it vital that reading sessions not be cut off in midstream because time has run out.
Reading aloud to children is making converts. In Chicago, Mayor Harold Washington plans to begin a media campaign early next year and to distribute information to public schools, libraries, churches and youth organizations and parents.
In Delaware, State Representative Kevin W. Free organized a statewide project in pediatric clinics. As part of the project, trained volunteers talk to parents in waiting rooms about the need to read to their children. The program also trains teen-agers to read aloud to their younger brothers and sisters.
In New York, the United Federation of Teachers supports Parents as Reading Partners, a program that encourages parents and children to read together at least 15 minutes a day.
In an afterword, Dr. Russell cautions: ''Don't think that a book must be either one to read aloud or one of your children's own silent reading. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having your children bring home a Dickens novel, let's say, from which you read aloud one chapter while they read another on their own.''
Reading aloud costs nothing except time. Its only flaw is that it favors children from homes where books are no strangers. That should underscore the importance of building daily reading into early childhood education and child-care programs for poor children.
Finally, reading aloud is not some new-fangled idea. Such readings, for adults as well as children, were part of the American household in the early days of the Republic.