This week's assignment is: All About Audio freebie -- aka top ten audiobooks you should listen to, 10 books I want to listen to on audio,10 bands you should check out, 10 podcasts you should be listening to, 10 of my all time favorite albums, 10 songs I love, really whatever you can come up with.
I wasn't sure what to do with this, as audiobooks and podcasts are two things I like the idea of, but haven't spent much time exploring. Then I thought of read-alouds. I love to read books aloud. To my kids, to your kids, to friends and family. I could easily make a list of ten books I've read to my students, but instead I decided to go with ten read-aloud experiences, many of which will still include my classroom adventures.
1. The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis.
I'm sure I've told this story here before, but one summer in the mid-70s, when I was 8 or 9, my big sister and I read this book aloud together. After the dinner dishes were done, we'd cozy up together on the chaise lounge in the backyard. One night she'd read me two chapters, and the next I'd read her one. The book remains my favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia, and I suspect that experience has a lot to do with my preference.
2. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler
A decade or so later, the summer before I started college, this book was a best-seller. My best friend and I took it with us everywhere that summer, and as we "lay out" (which was a common term for sunbathing), we'd take turns reading it aloud to each other.
3. Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen
Another ten years on, this became the first novel I read to a class. My intermediate ESL students lacked literacy skills to read independently, but their oral understanding was near grade level. As I read Sarny's story of being a slave who dared to learn to read, one of my students said, "Hey, we're learning about this in US History too. This book is actually making me care more about what went on." Bingo.
4. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
I've read a lot of Bryson over the years, and I don't think any of it has ever delighted me like Neither Here Nor There. Still, this book is special to me because I read sections of it out loud to my mom, and we laughed ourselves silly. I have a picture of us sitting on the porch of a place my family goes to up on Mt. Hood. I'm reading and grinning, and she's looking at my face and laughing with delight.
5. Holes by Louis Sachar
This book though. It is all kinds of crazy and funny and tender-hearted. Reading it to my classes years before the movie ever came out, I learned something about students and labels. I had a kid whose learning disability made learning English even more frustrating, but he KICKED ASS on this book. Listening to me read it aloud, he caught foreshadowing, wordplay, and symbols that most of the class missed. He laughed at bits that went over everyone else's head. He was smart, and by reading the book to him, we both found that out.
6. Star Baby by Margaret O'Hair
I read a lot to my own kids when they came home with us. They didn't know English at first, so instead of reading the words, I'd engage in this sort of bastardized paraphrase using pointing, my terrible Lithuanian, and words they'd learned in English. This one, with its simple words, sweet illustrations and predictable rhyme scheme, was one of the first I actually read word for word, and they wanted to hear it over and over and over.
7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling
This is the first "real chapter book" I read to my kids a few years later. They'd both seen the movie, which helped them with tracking the characters and scenes. Then I got the illustrated version for my daughter last Christmas, and I read it to her again, and she got it even more. I was always a tiny bit envious of the younger generations for getting to experience this first as children, but I have to say, reading it to a child might actually be the best way to appreciate it.
I read both of these to my seventh graders last year,and they were spellbound by both. Then we went and saw her speak at Powell's and everyone's mind was blown.
Two other books I read aloud to classes last year. Another author we got to meet. Kids were shouting and falling out of their chairs as we hit the last few twists. Talk about getting involved!
10. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
I read this to a more restrained group of kids last year, in my lowest reading class. And it worked. As with Harry Potter, I discovered that a book I'd enjoyed fine when reading it to myself took on a whole new flavor and resonance when reading it to kids. It's also this year's Global Read Aloud book for middle schoolers, so I'll be starting it again soon. This time we'll be sharing the experience with students in Ohio, New York, Michigan, Australia, and Sweden. It should be amazing.