One of the things I love about my young kids is their mutual love of books. They love to be read to, they cuddle up and look over your shoulder, and they get excited to hear stories and ask questions. However, there are only so many nights one can read Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are before you start to lose your mind. My oldest, Max, is partly named after the lead character in the Maurice Sendak classic tale because it was my favorite book growing up that inspired much of my imagination and desire to tell stories through film. My wife and I needed something different. Bedtime was getting more and more rambunctious – they knew all the stories and two books wasn’t enough time to get them to calm down…and more than two was tugging at our sanity as parents. What was happening was, getting them both into a bed to read a picture book resulted in getting them more fired up because they ended up wrestling or egging each other on in some way. I needed them to calm down. I needed them to calm down in their own bed. Then…it happened…by accident. The greatest thing to ever happen to bedtime routine in our household.
Both boys were jumping up and down on their beds as my wife (Kate) tried to get them to calm down. They had terrorized us during bath time and teeth-brushing had been no picnic either. A day of being home alone with the kids had worn heavily on her and I could see it on her face, she was ready to flip out. I was on the verge of losing my temper but had only been in the fray for a few hours after work. So, I gave my wife a hug and told her I’d put them to bed. They have good behavior for me, only because they spend all day with Kate and know how to push her buttons. I can swoop in and be a new voice of authority, which the boys are currently respecting…for now. She exited the room and the guy-time began.
Max wanted to read Cars and Trucks and Things That Go and Dodge picked out Press Here. Both great books. One is super long…the other is super silly. I rifled through their bookshelf when I came across a book I had recently bought “for a future date.” It’s a story for an older kid, but they had started watching the movie and I’d turned it off saying, “You need to read the book first.” This isn’t fair since Dodge is 4 and Max is 6. Max just started reading this year. But this book is best read by a father to a son…so I bought it….and there it was…singing to me. Ryan…read me to them! So, I put the picture books down and picked this book up. “Boys,” I stated very matter-of-factly, “we’re going to do something different tonight…we’re going to read a big-kid book.” This was greeted with excitement, hesitation, curiosity, and distaste. I turned off the lights, turned on a small lamp for myself at the foot of their beds, sat in the old rocking chair, and began.
The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
For weeks, we read this favorite tale of mine and even skipped around to get to the good parts (which is part of the fun). The boys were no longer terrors at night, instead they were happy little guys who excitedly went about their nighttime routine in anticipation of climbing into bed to hear about the swashbuckling adventures of The Man in Black! There was no whining. There was no arguing. There were only sweet little boys listening intently and asking great questions before drifting off to sleep to have their own adventures. Dodge would often fall asleep before the chapter was over and Max would already be in his imagination land when I slid the bookmark between the pages, marking the starting point for tomorrow night’s adventure. When the book was over, they were hungry for more…and when kids this age are hungry for things like this…you feed them. In the past few months we have read:
- The Princess Bride
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
- Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia
- Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- The BFG (Big Friendly Giant)
- James and the Giant Peach
We are currently reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and have on deck for future reading:
- Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
- Charlotte’s Web
- Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
- Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy
- Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew
- Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle
They LOVE Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, mainly because of all the talk about candy, but it is right where their attention level is. We are going to start a new Harry Potter book each year on Christmas so they can grow up with the characters and not binge-read them all at once.
What I’m looking for are recommendations from you on books we should add to our list. I read them 2 chapters at each sitting which with naps on weekends but some nights with sitters equates to 15-20 chapters per week! We need lots of good recommendations!
Please comment on this post with a book or two you think my boys would like and read what others have posted as well. Thank you in advance for all the help continuing to make this special “Dad time” last as long as possible, there is something magical about ending each day reading to little boys and answering questions about the world.
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