Sunday, December 11, 2005

Read Alouds for Thanksgiving

Couch Potato Time…but this time to read!
By Mary C. Gildersleeve
(published in the The Catholic Miscellany, November4, 2005)

The jury is in – family read-alouds help encourage literacy, increase imagination and build a nation of readers. But the best reason to read-aloud as a family every day: to create memories that last a lifetime, the memories of sitting cozy on the couch, sharing this together time, discussing the story, making a recipe from the book, and just enjoying each other.

Every month, I will suggest great read-alouds that my family has enjoyed – read-alouds that make you laugh, cry, cheer or boo. They will be religious or secular, picture books or chapter books – but all will be enjoyable. The pleasantest times with my own family occur when reading aloud good books.

November kicks off with the feast of All Saints and what better way to cherish this Catholic feast than with Ethel Pochocki’s stories of saints compiled in two books: Once Upon a Time Saints and More Once Upon a Time Saints. Each book contains 16 saint stories – stories about poor people and rich people, free people and enslaved people, people whom you might know and those of whom you have never heard. But all these people have one thing in common: they gave it all up for God. Read a story each night (they are only about a 10 minute read) during the month and embrace our Catholic heritage. Published by Bethlehem Books, $9.95.

Another beautiful saint book is Sister Wendy’s Book of Saints. Sister Wendy Becket, famous for her PBS series on painting, gives a nice overview of some 35 saints, one on each two-page spread. Famous (and some not so famous) depictions of the saints illustrate Sr. Wendy’s text, laden with her notorious wit. She carries through the book a delight in showing the saints as they really were – humans who ultimately chose God over evil. Published by Dorling Kindersley, $19.95.

As November winds down, one particular family favorite is Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin. The Devlin’s weave a story about the problem with making assumptions and apologizing when necessary. The tale revolves around a secret cranberry bread recipe which is included at the end of the story. The smell of freshly-baked cranberry bread makes for a wonderful family tradition at this time of year. Published by Aladdin Books, $5.99.

Cynthia Rylant, born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, has written a couple of pictures books to remind us that one of the most important things in life is family. Her When I Was Young in the Mountains is a beautiful, not overly sentimental, look at growing up in the mountains, surrounded by family. Rylant paints word pictures of a memory that will touch all readers. Another book by Rylant, Appalachia: the Voices of Sleeping Birds, brings the daily Appalachian experience alive to all listeners. Published by Puffin Books, $6.99 each.

So turn off the TVs, gather the family, and become a couch potato of a different sort – read!

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