By: Bari Ericson, Youth Programming Associate
For several summers my porch became the destination for our neighborhood kids. Twice a week my children and I made popcorn and juice, and then set out scratch paper and markers or colored pencils. At 1:30, the kids came on foot, bikes and scooters. They snacked and drew while I read aloud. We progressed through a few chapters of a book each afternoon, stopping after about half an hour, unless the story invited us to go longer.
It was, frankly, a Mayberry kind of moment (if you are old or nostalgic enough to catch the reference.) The ceiling fan hummed, the markers rubbed, the popcorn crunched and I was able to share some solid literature with an assortment of kids who otherwise would not know each other or the books we read.
And once they had been gathered, the children would often play together outside afterwards.
Story Club was easy and inexpensive. It provided a respite of art and literature to contrast with our otherwise busy, screen-oriented days. Grateful neighbors would occasionally send along a plate of treats. And the kids still talk about the friends and characters they met on those peaceful afternoons.
Whether you decide to give Story Club a try in your neighborhood, or just want to curl up with your own child on a warm afternoon, here are a few ideas for classic read alouds that appeal to a wide range of ages.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Ten-year-old India Opal Buloni describes her first summer in the town of Naomi, Florida, and all the good things that happen to her after she acquires a big, ugly dog.
Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
The adventures of a country cricket who unintentionally arrives in New York City and is befriended by Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Having run away with her younger brother to live in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, twelve-year-old Claudia strives to keep things in order in their new home and solve a mystery.
Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
Six episodes in the life of Homer Price including one in which he and his pet skunk capture four bandits and another about a runaway doughnut machine.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Four English schoolchildren find their way through the back of a wardrobe into the magic land of Narnia and help Aslan triumph over the White Witch, who has cursed the land with eternal winter.
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Matilda applies her superior mental powers to rid the school of the evil, child-hating headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and restore her beloved teacher, Miss Honey, to financial security.
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
A reckless young mouse named Ralph makes friends with a boy in room 215 of the Mountain View Inn and discovers the joys of motorcycling.
Mr Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
It was hard enough for Mr. Popper to support his family. The addition of twelve penguins makes it impossible. Perhaps the penguins will be able to earn enough for them all.
Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald
From her upside-down house, the eccentric Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle provides parents with marvelous cures for such common children’s diseases as Won’t-Put-Away-Toys-itis, Answerbackism, and Fighter-Quarrelitis.