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Kentucky by Heart: Kentuckians share some of their favorite read-aloud children’s book selections

Editor’s note: This is the second of two-parts discussing popular read-aloud books for children.

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

In last week’s column, I shared, with joy, several of the children’s read-aloud books I read to my students during a 28-year teaching career. I soon discovered that a whole lot of others valued read-aloud time, too, and I was bombarded from Kentuckians with selections that worked for them.

Some read-alouds touch emotionally to the point of tears. “I always read Where the Red Fern Grows aloud to my fifth-grade students,” said Lydia Jacobs, of Pippa Passes. “The students loved the story and loved seeing me cry.” Karen Searle mentioned her tearjerker, I’ll Love You Forever, by Owen Hart, saying that the book “shows the circle of life.” Lana Pruitt pretty much feels the same way about Hart’s book. And for Marcus Lynn, my pastor in Versailles, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane does the trick. “Kate DiCamillo is a great author, and that book elicits tears every time. My kids loved it when they were little and still remember it.”

Tammy English, of Wilmore, named three she has shared with her grandchildren: I’ll Love You Forever, The Monster at the End of the Book, and Little Blue Truck. “Growing up, I loved Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree (and) anything written by Beverly Cleary and (also) Miss Nelson books,” she said.

Winchester resident Catherine Campbell recalls a very practical reason for reading aloud to her children. “The boys and I loved Dr. Seuss,” she said. “We had them all memorized. On trips out of town, we would recite lines from each book. It kept them quiet and entertained. I miss those days.”

Pendleton County librarian Fran Carr remembers that her young son, now 34-years-old, “absolutely loved Hop on Pop… made him giggle so hard his little body shook.” Her nephew, now 48, was a Three Billy Goats Gruff fan. “I don’t think I had a favorite. I loved anything anyone would read aloud to me,” she added.

Cj Hilton loved The Secret Garden as a child. As an adult, she sees the advantages of reading to older individuals as well. “I read The Odyssey aloud to my freshmen students so they could get the idea of the oral tradition,” she noted. “They very much enjoyed it. I did the same with parts of Beowulf for my seniors as well. People forget how pleasant it is to be read to. Even high school students like it.”

Erica Rhodus liked Bridge to Terabithia as a student, saying “It was the first novel I ever FELT.” As a teacher, she likes The Tale of Despereaux and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

And oh, the power of books. “I loved reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis, to my fifth and sixth graders,” noted Vickie Hunter. “They had a car they called ‘The Brown Bomber.’ My students didn’t make a connection until we went on a trip to Arlington Cemetery and they saw the grave of the great Joe Louis, aka ‘Brown Bomber’ and went crazy. The case of the bombing of the church in Birmingham was solved two days later after reading the book. I actually had sixth graders move their chairs up close to mine as I read it out loud. They were so engaged in the story.”

Quiet Wyatt, according to Margaret Webster, of Versailles, “broke my heart to read it. My grandson was a ‘quiet Wyatt.’ He’s made it just fine,” she added with a smile.

Noisy Nora, The Tub People, and James Marshall fairy tales are favorites of the grandchildren of Susan Riggs. And as a true bibliophile, Susan remarked wistfully: “So many books, so little time.”

In a world where parents cringe at some of the things their kids see online, the opportunity to have some control of the narrative, in fact with generally wholesome material, might be another good reason to engage in reading aloud to our young.

That said, here’s more popular read-aloud books individuals mentioned, along with my additions. This is no way an exhaustive list. The first thirteen were suggested by Christa Emerich, who is a Head Start teacher in Bourbon County. Christa actually offered even more.

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
The Wonky Donkey
The Snowy Day
Silly Sally
The Mitten
Three Little Pigs
A Tree Named Steve
The Napping House
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub
Duck in a Truck
Little Blue Truck series
Where the Wild Things Are
The Hungry Caterpillar
Mr. Pine’s Purple House
The Remarkable Farkle McBride
Anne of Green Gables books
All Dr. Seuss books
The Napping House
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
The Little Engine That Could
Jillian Jiggs
Yours Turly, Shirley (story of child with dyslexia)
Among the Hidden
The Cow Who Wouldn’t Come Down
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good
The Tinder Box
The Box Car Children books
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Velveteen Rabbit
I Promise I’ll Find You
Grumpy Grandpa
Junie B. Jones
James and the Giant Peach
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Curious George
The Giant Jam Sandwich
The Little House
Thank You, Mr. Faulkner
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Harold and the Purple Crayon
Eric Carle books
Sheep in a Jeep
The Wonky Donkey
The Paper Bag Princess
The Five Little Peppers
Otis the Tractor series
A Fly Went By
Fish in a Tree
The Little Red Hen
George Ella Lyon books
Evelyn Christensen books
Marcia Thornton books

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