Of all that I share here on this blog, searching through books to develop our reading plans is what I spend the most time doing, as I hope to choose books that our family cherishes reading together (and your family cherishes as well, should you choose to use our reading plans!). The only problem is… there are so many great books to choose from! Having acknowledged this fact, I share our reading selections for next school year realizing that there are a ton of other great works of literature to explore.
Several of the following read aloud selections are books I’ve wanted us to read for some time now, so they are more generally categorized by semester or the overarching memory work themes of Medieval history and World Wars. Because we are also using the Western Civilization Study (Calendar Quest) as our core history program for this year, we’re not so concerned about touching on every piece of memory work in these reading selections. If we have questions about our history memory work, we will reference either our Acts & Facts History Cards or our CC Cycle 2 Reading Correlation for Story of the World.
If you are interested in using shorter books as read alouds, our first reading plan for Classical Conversations Cycle 2 (written three years ago) is correlated more directly with memory work. (Click here to see that reading plan.)
Read Aloud Selections First Semester:
- The Magic Runes: A Tale of the Times of Charlemagne (a book originally written in 1888 about showing Christ’s love to others; uses slightly archaic language). [This is our personal selection as an alternate to Son of Charlemagne. Sonlight and Beautiful Feet recommend Son of Charlemagne, but our family has never been able to read past Chapter 3.]
- The Tales of Robin Hood. Because we have never read through any of the Robin Hood stories outside of the picture book Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow, we’ve decided this year we’ll dive into this classic. Two free ebooks in the public domain are Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle or Robin Hood by J Walker McSpadden, but they use somewhat archaic language (which is beautiful but may take some getting used to!). If you check out the free ebooks and find you need a more readable version, use Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Green or the somewhat slimmer Tales of Robin Hood by Anna Claybourne. For younger readers there’s also the DK Readers : Robin Hood Level 4 Reader . Pair this reading with the illustrated book The Magna Carta: Cornerstone of the Constitution. Great tie-ins to Cycle 2 history (and Cycle 3!)!
- The Door in the Wall. This one is a Classical Conversations Challenge A book set in fourteenth-century England during the time of the plagues. (I highly recommend reading Classical Conversations Challenge books before your child gets to Challenge!)
- Crispin: The Cross of Lead, another exciting Classical Conversations Challenge A book set in fourteenth-century Europe during the Hundred Years’ War. Be forewarned: although the details were not elaborated upon, it includes the controversial circumstance of a Lord’s illegitimate son. As a read aloud I simply did not read a couple of words out loud. Also, because our children are already aware of the brokenness of relationships outside of marriage, this was not a completely foreign subject for us. Rather, it gave us an opportunity to talk about these things briefly as a family. Another potential concern is the use of unusual swears such as, “by God’s everlasting bones” or “by the putrid bowels of Lucifer.” Even with the somewhat controversial nature of some aspects of this book, it is a beautiful tale of love, life, and loyalty.
- Treasure Island. My husband says every boy needs to read Treasure Island, so this is what we’re reading as a sort of age-of-exploration type of book (which I know is a stretch). If you’d like a book related to memory work, you can try The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell or the free ebook A Book of Discovery: The History of the World’s Exploration, From the Earliest Times to the Finding of the South Pole by MB Synge. [For an alternate read for girls, try the classic Heidi or the book Catherine: The Great Journey, Russia, 1743]
- We attempted The Struggle for Sea Power (free ebook in the public domain) but it did not engage our 7-year-old and 10-year-old sons. Instead, we are re-reading The Apprentice and maybe even Beneath the Cat’s Claw. The Struggle for Sea Power is a book that covers the age of colonization, providing a history of the European colonies as well as the American and French Revolutions along with the rise of Napoleon. However, The Apprentice (set during the Renaissance) and Beneath the Cat’s Claw (set during the French Revolution) are fantastic books that we thoroughly enjoyed and would love to read again as a family.
Read Aloud Selections Second Semester:
- The Twenty-One Balloons. I wanted to bookend our war-related literature/historical fiction selections with lighthearted adventuresome books. The Twenty-One Balloons is the first bookend and is one I’m certain the boys will be delighted with.
- Mid-Year Update: Angel on the Square. Because the boys begged me to read The Twenty-One Balloons at the end of last semester, we decided to work in a couple of books related to World War I to fill in the gap. Set in Russia just before World War I, Angel on the Square follows the life of a wealthy girl who serves the imperial family (Nicholas II of Russia…) After World War I ends and the Bolshevik revolution turns her world upside down, she learns how to sacrifice as she rebuilds her life as a peasant. Great story!
- Mid-Year Update: We added Sergeant York and the Great War due to a field trip to the Alvin C York State Historic Site in Tennessee – and because Alvin York’s life is a beautiful true story of redemption. We loved this story!
- I am David. Instead of reading about WWI this year, we have opted to use picture books for World War I and focus our read-alouds on WWII. (Although we may later decide to add a biography of Alvin York or bios of animal heroes during the wars.) I am David tells the escape story of a 12-year-old prisoner of a concentration camp during World War II. [For an alternate read aloud selection for girls, try When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. If you have not yet read Number the Stars (a CC Challenge A book) or Snow Treasure, those are both excellent reads that our family loved the first time around!]
So Far from the Bamboo Grove. This book focuses on the country of Korea and Japan’s occupation during WWII. Mid-Year Update: Although this is an autobiographical account related to World War II, the Korean War, and communism, this autobiography is far too tragic and graphic to read to children. Instead, we highly recommend When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. The name seems a bit girly and shallow, but this autobiography is so fantastic! It’s an innocent look (from the perspective of a child) at what was happening in Europe as Jews evacuated Germany during the years leading up to WWII. Riveting and delightful. Loved it!
- Shadow on the Mountain. Last year, we so enjoyed Preus’s book, Heart of a Samurai, that we decided to end our world war reading with this exciting tale of espionage set during WWII. Mid-Year Update: Although we thoroughly enjoyed Heart of a Samurai, we did not care for this book much. The hatred exhibited by one of the characters just did not settle well. Instead, we recommend Snow Treasure, an excellent family read-aloud also set in Norway during World War II.
- Goodbye, Vietnam. Stories about the Vietnam War are difficult (as are most stories about war conflict). Because of its tie-in to Vietnam after the Vietnam War, we chose this story of a family’s escape as refugees in post-war Vietnam.
- The Wheel on the School. This does not tie in to any of our history memory work, but our 12-year-old son told me we must read this book out loud as a family. Because it at least ties in to some of our geography memory work earlier in the year, and because it is a funny and enjoyable book, we decided we’ll close out our school year with this one.
Visit this post for picture book selections.
Note: We usually read aloud our family read-aloud selections in the evenings after supper. The following are short readings and/or activities we do to jumpstart our school day.
For some time now I’ve been struggling on how to better communicate how we handle our “connections” or “truth-goodness-beauty” activities. Writing these into a planner makes it seem like such a demanding and hard-set schedule when, in reality, we don’t necessarily read them on those particular days or weeks. The reality is that we have used a loop schedule for years now when it comes to these “extras.” By a loop schedule, I’m referring to the fact that when we “fall behind” on our planned activities, we go back through our plans and pick up where we left off as we continue through the school year. The idea, though, is that in an ideal world, we would read each of our “looped” selections on a weekly basis. So, for each week, we would have a selection from storytelling, Shakespeare, a mini-biography, and a poem. Likewise, we would have nature study, hymn study, composer study, and art. I’m attempting to develop a planner that reflects the loop and am hoping to have it available by the end of June. (As I look at my current to-do list, this may be super-duper wishful thinking on my part, but my heart says I want to get it out before the end of June even if reality doesn’t pan out that way!)
After thinking through a better structure for our loop schedule, we have two loops that we are using in the mornings. I’ll place the resources for these loops in our truth-wonder-beauty basket. The first resource in our basket is our daily Bible/Character devotion, Hero Tales: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes.
Morning Storytime Loop:
- Daily Devotion (not looped because we’ll read from this daily): Hero Tales: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Christian Heroes
- Storytelling: Medieval Tales that Kids Can Read & Tell by Lorna Carnota (First Semester) and William J Bennett’s The Book of Virtues (Second Semester). I hope to improve my storytelling skills and help the boys to learn how to engage their audience by telling good stories well. I have chosen these two selections because the former has short stories with specific storytelling skills to practice for each. After we’ve experienced a semester of the guided storytelling practice, we will embark on using William Bennett’s Book of Virtues to practice the skills we learned first semester. Storytelling is a beautiful thing that we enjoy so much. I am REALLY looking forward to this and am glad to have found Czarnota’s book!
- Shakespeare: Usborne’s Stories from Shakespeare or Tales From Shakespeare by Tina Packer or the free ebooks Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by E Nesbitt or Tales from Shakespeare by Mary Lamb. I provide some options here because, really, any old Shakespeare-for-children book will work. I personally love Usborne’s Stories from Shakespeare. If you have younger children, you can opt for Usborne’s Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare. Usborne’s Illustrated Stories and Illustrated Classics are highly recommended by our children. They honestly read and re-read them over and over again.
- Mini-Biographies: What Really Happened During the Middle Ages (1st semester). I haven’t yet decided on a book for second semester. I’m thinking about a biography of Isaac Newton or just using biography selections from William J Bennett’s The Book of Virtues.
- Poetry: Our family uses IEW’s Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization (which should be a daily program but I place it into our loop in case I let it fall by the wayside). If you are not ready for a formal poetry memorization program, you can use poems from William J Bennett’s The Book of Virtues, OR an absolutely wonderful illustrated book for children (with a CD so you can practice memorizing!), is Child’s Introduction to Poetry: Listen While You Learn About the Magic Words That Have Moved Mountains, Won Battles, and Made Us Laugh and Cry
Morning Wonder-Beauty Loop
- Nature Study and Science: First semester – selections from Properties of Ecosystems (God’s Design for Science) and Our Universe (God’s Design for Heaven & Earth) and Find the Constellations; second semester – selections from Heat & Energy (God’s Design for the Physical World). [UPDATE: After much consideration, we are no longer going to use God’s Design for Science. We are using Jay Wile’s Science in the Ancient World, which covers science from a Christian worldview as it relates to science from the ancient Greeks/Romans to the Renaissance. The added benefit of this one is the biographical accounts of scientists, which follows along the science focus of Challenge B.] I’m hoping we will do some nature study daily, but I’m writing this into our loop plan just in case we have trouble fitting it in. I don’t want to accidentally drop nature study from our schedule. One of my goals is that we will learn the constellations of the night sky this year. We also plan to create habitats to study earthworms, frogs, butterflies, and other critters. Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study is a great free resource you can use as you dive into Nature Study with your children.
- Hymn Study: Then Sings My Soul. This book has some background information about many different hymns, along with the score (for the pianists). For our family (who has only a beginner pianist), I match up selections from Then Sings My Soul with downloadable mp3s for our family to listen and memorize the words (e.g., There is a Fountain by MercyMe).
- Composer Study: The Story of the Orchestra (with CD). Great book for studying orchestra and composers, along with a CD of classical music to listen to.
- Art Study/Projects: Usborne’s Art Treasury and Usborne’s Famous Paintings Cards or Art Fraud Detective: Spot the Difference, Solve the Crime! and Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters. We own all of these resources. I offer the Usborne option and the non-Usborne option. All of them are favorites in our home, but I think it’s easiest to use Usborne’s Famous Paintings Cards as a springboard for art study (although it doesn’t provide practice in art techniques).
An important part of our daily loops: Our last trip across the nation totally inspired me. Reading Lewis & Clark’s journal entries and the journal entries of pioneers and scientists/inventors provided extra motivation to set aside time daily for the boys to write and sketch in their journals. The journal entries will be based upon something that we studied during our loops. Of course in my utopian mindset (which is how I always start our school year no matter what last year was like), I imagine sketches of constellations, and a calendar of moon phase diagrams, and neatly-written copywork/poems with lovely illustrations, and free-hand drawings of world maps, and illustrations & explanations of inventions and other ideas. I hope to share how this fleshes out over the course of the year.
Calendar Quest & Western Civ Study. As a family we chose this study for our core history study in the coming year. We previously used this study (involving calendars, coloring, maps, and a timeline) when our oldest child was nine and are now looking forward to going through it again now that the boys are three years older and can understand more! If you have purchased the Western Civilization Study, you can download our Western Civilization Study Loop.
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