First, let's talk about the text. It's a long running poem about the beginning of a large family all the way to a family of seven children and it's just beautifully written. If you have a large family you are going to laugh along the way as you meet Peter Peters, Lucy Peters and the rest of the clan! Clever, fun, and funny.
The illustrations are fantastic. The illustrator, Marla Frazee, has done an excellent job capturing the fun and chaos of family life. I also love the pictures of the mother and her reactions to the challenge of raising a family.
Lastly, the structure. It's a celebration of life. The birth of each and every child is celebrated and in the end we celebrate the wonder of a mother who finds something delicious in the oven. A family favorite here!
If you are one of those people who would like to get started reading to your kids, this is a great place to start. She is a great storyteller and she drops gems on how to get kids excited and into reading.
The Read-Aloud Family has three sections. Part 1 goes through all the pertinent research about the benefits of reading aloud to our children. For all of the times when I wonder if what I'm doing is actually worth anything, I will remember the information gleaned here. The biggest takeaway for me is that reading aloud is the BEST use of my time with my kids. From making ourselves present for our kids in a highly distracted culture, to inspiring virtue and compassion in them (and us!), to encouraging our kids academically, reading aloud does it all.
Part 2 is all about practical application. Sarah describes what she calls a "Book Club Culture" at home. She provides us with the right questions to ask about books to encourage deep thought and great conversation. We don't have to be experts on literary analysis to have a good conversation about books. We just have to be able to ask compelling questions. An really valuable part of this book is the chapter on how to pick books for your family, and what makes a good book.
Part 3 is the book list. Sarah breaks her book list into four age groups, 0-3, 4-7, 8-12, and the teen years. One of the things I appreciate about this list is that many of the books and authors are newer. Booklists for older books abound (see John Senior's 1000 Good Books), but navigating the world of new books can be tough for busy parents. I don't have time to read everything before my kids get to it, so this list is valuable. I trust Sarah's opinion and through being a "Sarah MacKenzie Groupie" I have found many gems that have become family favorites. Of course Sarah does not discount classic literature, and encourages families to read it in this book. But because lists for newer literature are not as easy to find (and if you do find one, can you be sure it's a good one?) the list in The Read-Aloud Family belongs in every home.
I am a bit of a book nerd, so I have looked at other resources about reading aloud and this is going to be a new favorite! But Sarah's book is so much more than just a book on reading books. Sarah's book is about building up the family culture while providing an avenue to have wonderful conversations with our children and deepening family bonds. I highly recommend The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids. Its worth your time and your money.
Jamie C. Martin wrote this one and its for those of us who interested in having our children learn about the world. She has amazing book lists in here and you can find a lot of the books at the local library.
The other thing that is amazing about this author is that she organizes a Read the World book club every summer and she is doing it again this summer. If your child loves books and is interested in other cultures, this is a great way to go. If your children or students are more solitary readers, it's still a great resource.
Be blessed and try any of these resources!