Lisa Ripperton

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A First Grade Read Aloud Banquet

by Lisa Ripperton
January ​​8, 20​20

​It has long been my mission to make it possible for every child ​to have ​the opportunity to hear a story and a song, a poem and a rhyme every day of the year. With the ​First Grade Read Aloud Banquet now available at Gateway to the Classics, ​anyone with a phone or a tablet can make that happen for the six year olds in their care.

Note: While the First Grade Read Aloud Banquet is similar in many respects to the Kindergarten Read Aloud Banquet introduced in January, 2019, there are significant differences which will be highlighted below.

​​Upon first arriving at the Read Aloud Banquet, you are greeted by a brightly illustrated rhyme and a ​poem from ​a collection especially chosen for six year olds. ​Refresh​ the screen, and a new rhyme and a new poem ​are displayed for your enjoyment.

​Scroll down and you encounter a set of ​songs for the current month with sound controls so you can start and stop them. These songs come from The Baby's Bouquet and The Baby's Opera, selected and illustrated by Walter Crane. Click on the song title and you will see illustrated sheet music for the song, often followed by a full page color illustration, like the one pictured below. According to Frances Epps, "The Baby's Opera and The Baby's Bouquet are perfect feasts of delight to little people of two years old and upwards; the picture and music alike fascinate them." ("Song for the Nursery," Parents' Review, Volume 1, pp. 144-164). Every month automatically brings a new set of songs fitting for the season.

​​While ​the First Grade Read Aloud Banquet includes many of the same songs featured in the Kindergarten Read Aloud Banquet, over one third of them are new.  ​

​​Now, scroll down to the bottom ​to find an animal tale on view. With each refresh of the screen a new animal tale is displayed. It may be a fable from Aesop or one of the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. It might be one of the richly illustrated tales from ​Beatrix Potter that are more appreciated by older children. A ​Brer Rabbit tale from Uncle Remus ​will appear from time to time, complete with a sound option so that as you listen to the story you can begin to make sense of the dialect in which the tales are recounted. A few of the folk tales illustrated and retold by Frederick Richardson that comprise the whole of the tales in the Kindergarten Read Aloud Banquet also show up occasionally. ​​Keep an eye out for my favorites in this collection, A Roundabout Turn by Robert Charles and The Bojabi Tree by Edith Rickert, ​that are sure to tickle the funny bone!

​In scrolling to the bottom we passed over a schedule of readings for every day in the week. The week displayed corresponds to the week of the year. In this plan there is a story and a ​poem to read each day. Click on the week number in the lefthand column to display all the readings for the week that you can then copy into a file for offline reading, if need be.

This reading plan is the heart of the First Grade Read Aloud Banquet. By proceeding leisurely ─ ​reading a chapter each week from ​a variety of books in different genres, instead of reading a single book straight through  children have the opportunity to ponder what they hear and wonder what might come next. Prompted the next week to recall where they left off, their memory of the ​story is strengthened, not just in the immediate future, but for all time.

The ​Books ​in the Plan

On Mondays we delve into imaginative fiction with three books of fantastical journeys: My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, The Story of Dr. Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, and The Wizard of Oz, all calculated to stretch children’s imaginations.

​​With biography, we begin to become familiar with the lives of some famous Americans on Tuesdays through short anecdotes about them by Edward Eggleston ​from his Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans.

​In the Wednesday reading we continue with more nature books by Clara Dillingham Pierson: Among the Farmyard People and Among the Pond People. Two of Pierson’s books were included in the Kindergarten Read Aloud Banquet, but in our experience once children are exposed to one of her books, they typically want to hear them all! Rounding out the nature offerings is Seed Babies by Margaret Morley, another fine nature writer we will meet again.

​We ​​continue with Fairy Tales Too Good to Miss on Thursdays when we read selections from the two anthologies of fairy tales for six year olds compiled by yours truly: Fairy Tales Too Good To Miss—Around the Fire and Fairy Tales Too Good To Miss—Up the Stairs. A variety of fine illustrators are represented in the collection.

M. B. Synge wrote a series of five books in her Story of the World ​series to introduce children to world history. We begin with On the Shores of the Great Sea, the first book in the series, ​on Fridays this year and plan to continue with subsequent volumes in the years to come. Should we find, though, that these stories do not resonate with six year olds, we have the option of substituting A Child’s History of the World by V. M. Hillyer in its place.

​On Saturdays we further our understanding of geography by continuing with the much loved Twins series by Lucy Fitch Perkins (started in the Kindergarten Read Aloud Banquet)​ with the reading this year of The Swiss Twins, The Filipino Twins, The Irish Twins, and The Mexican Twins.

In the faith genre, Hurlbuts’s Story of the Bible, comprising over 168 stories, will be read on Sundays over four years, starting with the First Grade Read Aloud Banquet. In this year as in the ones to come, six stories of saints from Amy Steedman’s In God’s Garden and Our Island Saints, will be included at intervals throughout the year. If you harbor doubts about reading Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible to six year olds, read our blog post Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible.

The ​Poetry in the Plan

​One way the first grade plan differs from the kindergarten plan is in the reading of a poem every day instead of a nursery rhyme. And what a rich collection of poems we have in store for you!

First off, we are delighted to bring to you poetry of three outstanding poets for children, each on their own day. On Tuesdays we are excited to offer all the poems from A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young, just days after its entering the public domain on January 1, 2020. Thursday features a selection of poems from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, arranged to follow the seasons. Sing-Song by Christina Georgina Rossetti is the source of the poems for Sunday reading, also arranged in accordance with the seasons. In contrast, the Milne poems are presented in the order they were originally published in When We Were Very Young.

On the other four days of the week we offer seasonally arranged poems that were carefully selected a century ago by authorities in children’s literature who were well attuned to what poetry appeals to children at each age. On Mondays and Wednesdays the poems come from A Child's Own Book of Verse, Book One, compiled by Ada M. Skinner and Frances Gillespy Wickes. Three Years with the Poets, compiled by Bertha Hazard, is the source for the poems read on Fridays. For Saturdays the poetry selections come from Graded Poetry Readers, First Year compiled by Katherine D. Blake and Georgia Alexander. From the preface of this last book comes the following: “Poetry is the chosen language of childhood and youth...Not until youth approaches maturity is there an equal pleasure in the rounded periods of elegant prose. It is in childhood therefore that the young mind should be stored with poems whose rhythm will be a present delight and whose beautiful thoughts will not lose their charm in later years.” They further advise: “The best way to teach children to love a poem is to read it inspiringly to them. The French say, ‘The ear is the pathway to the heart.’ A poem should be so read that it will sing itself in the hearts of listening children.”

NOTE: The ​First Grade Read Aloud Banquet is NOT meant as a replacement for the reading of ​other books, including picture books. Nor is it meant as a substitute for participating in whole family read aloud time. Young children gain more than you might imagine from listening to books well above their comprehension level.

The Power of Reading Every Day

The selections for a given day can typically be read in under 15 minutes, assuming no interruptions. With interruptions, of course, it will take longer. In the course of a year, if you read all the selections, you will complete the reading of several hundred poems, as well as ​thirteen books in their entirety, and substantial portions from a handful of others.

Spreading a Broad Feast

​In offering the ​First Grade Read Aloud Banquet we are spreading a broad feast. Children who partake ​​are likely to show ​greater awareness and appreciation in a variety of spheres, with ​new trains of thought and interest awakening and increasing capacity for memory and verbal expression. Take a look at the First Grade Read Aloud Banquet now, try it out with your child, then share your thoughts with us by adding a comment below.

Readers To Get Excited About

by Lisa Ripperton
​​September ​25, 2019

​​Reading came easily to two of my three children, with little effort on my part. I do remember a game I played for a short while with my oldest. I made a series of cards with short sight words written on them. I arranged them in a circle at the kitchen table and placed an M&M on each. Nate rolled a die, moved his piece around the circle and if he could read the word on the card, he got to eat the M&M! He missed so rarely there was no need to continue.

​Daniel's story

With Daniel, though, it was different. By the time he was entering second grade at the age of eight, he still couldn't read. I was concerned, but even more, I was puzzled. I had read countless picture books with them all, recited hundreds of nursery rhymes, and sung songs night after night. Moreover, all three had attended the same company-sponsored Montessori day care throughout their preschool years, where they had access to all sorts of phonics and word-building activities.

I don't know what early reading books were offered to Nate and Rebecca there, but for Daniel it was the Bob Books, and he found them insufferable. As he volunteered to me yesterday, recalling his experience two decades before, "The Bob Books are to the intellect what sawdust is to the stomach. While you can consume them, you probably shouldn't." If that was all there was for him to read, he wasn't interested.

So I made it my mission to find an early reader that would engage his interest. I looked long and hard, and I still remember the excitement I felt when I discovered a copy of Reading-Literature: The Primer at Reader's Corner on Hillsborough St. in Raleigh, NC. Turning to the first story, "The Little Red Hen," I noticed an engaging illustration of a hen with four short lines of text beneath. That looked like it might capture his interest without appearing too daunting!

I introduced him to the first story that very evening, saying that we would read a page or two every night until we finished it. The ground rules were simple: anytime he encountered a word he didn't recognize, he could tap me lightly on the shoulder and I would supply it. With so much repetition in the text, he learned some words quickly, ten taps typically being all he needed to cement a word in his mind. By the time we got to the 11-sentence summary of the story on page 10, he pretty much knew all the words. Boy, was that a confidence booster!

Over the course of the next month or two, we slowly made our way through the other eight stories in the book, until we finally reached the end. The next night, I told him we were going to read the whole book again. He groaned that he couldn't possibly read it again, it was so hard the first time! Yet once he started reading, he was amazed at how much easier it was! He breezed through one story a night in the second go-round, and was ready and eager to launch into the First Reader on completing it.

His progress through the First Reader, though it was considerably longer, seemed much less laborious. After completing the book, we reread it, as we had done with the Primer, but this time with no protests on his part. Moving on to the Second Reader, we read the first couple of stories, then Daniel turned to me and said, "Mom, we don't need to do this any more. I can read it myself!" And he could!

Appealing aspects of Reading-Literature Readers

Captivating illustrations

​Frederick Richardson has a real knack for creating illustrations that appeal to children. His animals and people all have distinct personalities, drawn with a touch of humor.

Illustrations that support the text

Illustrations are a critical component of these readers. In representing the actions described in the text, they provide clues to the reader as to what to expect, making it easier for him to make sense of the text. When a squirrel is pictured, the child is primed to decipher the word squirrel when he encounters it on the page.

Page layout appropriate to reading level

Illustrations abound in the early readers, with an illustration on nearly every page. There are fewer illustrations in the later readers when the support for meaning provided by illustrations becomes less necessary. The font size is appropriately large in the Primer, and decreases gradually thereafter. Number of words per page increases significantly through the series, as does the number of pages in the book. In all volumes, though, the text and illustrations are arranged pleasingly on the page.

Stories and poems that match interests of age

Beginning with simple folk tales, progressing through fables, fairy tales, mythology, and wonder tales, and coming at last to hero tales and legends, the stories and poems for these volumes are exceedingly well-chosen to match the interests of children at each particular age.

​A course in the best literature

According to the authors, the purpose and plan of the Reading-Literature Readers is to train children in reading and appreciating literature through the reading of the best literature. By encountering top notch literature in their reading course, children experience the joy of reading the best in the language, while forming their taste for all subsequent reading.

Reading-Literature: The ​Series

​The Reading-Literature Readers consist of ​seven volumes prepared by Harriette Taylor Treadwell and Margaret Free: The Primer, The First Reader, The Second Reader, The Third Reader, The Fourth Reader, The Fifth Reader, and The Sixth Reader. Two additional volumes, The Seventh Reader and The Eighth Reader, compiled by Thomas H. Briggs ​in a way different ​from the Free and Treadwell readers, are  not included in this discussion.

For each of the Free and Treadwell volumes, we offer below an introduction to the title from the ​book's Preface, followed by its Table of Contents, and then our thoughts about it.

Reading-Literature: The Primer

"Experience proves that all children are interested in and enjoy the simple folk tales, which are the literary products of many minds, and which have survived the centuries because they represent universal human experiences and satisfy certain common needs of childhood. Through countless repetitions, from one generation to another, they have assumed a form marked by simplicity and literary charm. 

The Primer contains nine of the best folk tales, true to the original, and yet written in such a simple style that children can begin reading the real story during the first week in school."

​​Many of these stories ​will be familiar to your child, but some may be brand new. All of them have lots of repetition which ​makes it easier for the young reader to proceed with the reading. Whether it is a cumulative tale like The Gingerbread Boy, in which a little bit is added to the story in every scene, or ​one like the Three Billy Goats Gruff where the setting is the same, but the characters are different, your child will find much to ​​enjoy in every story.

Reading-Literature: The ​First Reader

"The ​First Reader contains thirteen similar stories, of gradually increasing difficulty, and thirty-three of the best rhymes and jingles suitable for young children. This book, together with The Primer, constitutes a course in literature, twenty-two stories and thirty-three child poems, as well adapted to first-grade children as are the selections for 'college entrance requirements' to high-school students."

​Of the folk tales in The First Reader, some will likely be old friends and others will be ​unfamiliar. ​On the whole, these stories are longer and more involved than the selections in The Primer. Many are humorous, which is sure to delight your young reader. This volume includes a stellar collection of poems and rhymes, some of which your child may commit to memory with little or no effort.

Reading-Literature: The ​Second Reader

"The Second Reader introduces fables and fairy stories and continues folk tales and simple poems. The material is organized: a group of fables, several groups of folk and fairy stories, a group of Mother Goose, of Rossetti, of Stevenson, and so on; so that the child may get a body, not a mere bit, of one kind of material before passing to another. Thus from the first he is trained to associate related literature and to organize what he reads. 

"In each of the First and Second Readers one story is put into dramatic form to encourage presentation as a play. Some of the other stories are quite as dramatic in character, and can be dramatized by the pupils with very little help from the teacher. Pupils always enjoy this work, and there is no better way of securing feeling and freedom in oral expression."

The Second Reader ​may awaken your child to the ​wonders awaiting him in the reading realm. ​This is a good time to start stocking his personal library, ​beginning with Milo Winter's Aesop's Fables​, and then adding a couple of books of fairy tales. For Norse fairy tales, ​we recommend Thorne-Thomsen's East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon​ and for Grimm's fairy tales we ​are partial to Wanda Gag's Tales from Grimm. If your child appreciates the story of Peter Pan in this volume, you may want to read aloud to him the full story by J. M. Barrie.

Reading-Literature: The ​Third Reader

"The transition to ​The Third Reader will be found easy and to accord with the normal interests of the children. In prose the folk and fairy story is retained, but is merged into the wonder tale, which becomes a dominant note, while the fable gives place to more extended and more modern animal stories. The poetry begins with the group from Stevenson, whom the children have already learned to enjoy. Then follow selections from Lydia Maria Child, Lucy Larcom, Eugene Field, and a score of others dealing mainly with children's interests in animals and other forms of nature."

​The Third Reader introduces ​some classic children's books with several of its selections. You may want to check your local library for full length editions of ​Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, and Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies. These are probably better suited for reading aloud at this point unless your child is an exceptional reader.

Reading-Literature: The ​Fourth Reader

"The Fourth Reader has been made essentially the book of myths and legends, because it is believed that these stories represent the next step in the development of the child's interests in literature. In this year's work the child studies eighteen of the best myths and legends, including some from Greek, Norse, German, Austrian, and American sources.

"The poetry is selected with the same care as in the earlier books, with special reference to the child's feeling for rhythm, love of animated nature, and enjoyment of fun."

​The Norse myths in The Fourth Reader are adapted from Hamilton Wright Mabie's Norse Stories from the Eddas, while the Greek myths have their source in Nathaniel Hawthorne's A Wonder ​Book and Tanglewood Tales. ​The adventures of Theseus come from Charles Kingsley's The Heroes.  Your child may want to read these very fine collections of myths in their entirety!

I am struck by what a marvelous exposure to poetry the child will have who reads this volume, poems to fit every mood.

Reading-Literature: The Fifth Reader

"The Fifth Reader has been made essentially the book of hero-legends, the type of literature of especial interest to children at this stage of development. While all of these stories are adaptations from longer versions, they are complete units, and are long enough to train children in habits of sustained interest and attention. 

"In part the poetry has been selected to reinforce the prose, but always with special reference to the child's feeling for rhythm, love of animated nature, and enjoyment of fun."

​As Katherine Cather asserts in her Educating by Story-Telling, "The national epics are splendid sources of story material for children in the heroic period." The Fifth Reader ​​offers an engaging introduction to seven heroes from various traditions. Two have their source in Ancient Greece, namely Jason and Theseus, and one from the Mahabharata of Ancient India. Four derive from the Middle Ages in Europe and the British Isles: Sigurd (also known as Siegfried) from Germany, Cuchulain (spelled phonetically in this volume as Coohoolin) from Ireland, and Beowulf and Robin Hood from Britain. For more about the importance of reading hero tales, refer to our post "Why Read Robin Hood."

As with earlier volumes, these selections may whet the student's appetite for fu​rther reading. Here are some titles we recommend for fuller accounts of these heroes: Stories of Sigfried Told to the Children by Mary Macgregor, The Story of Siegfried by James Baldwin, The Odyssey for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church, Stories of Beowulf Told to the Children by H. E. Marshall, and Stories of Robin Hood Told to the Children, also by H. E. Marshall.

Reading-Literature: The ​Sixth Reader

"The ​​Sixth Reader ​continues with hero-legends, the type of literature of especial interest to children at this stage of development. With the hero-tales are interspersed some of the best humorous stories that have established themselves in literature. While all of these stories are adaptations from longer versions, they are complete units, and are long enough to train children in habits of sustained interest and attention. In part the poetry has been selected to reinforce the prose, but always with special reference to the child's feeling for rhythm, love of animated nature, and enjoyment of fun."

​In The Sixth Reader, we have seven more hero stories, well-suited to this age because they demand a little more maturity on the part of the reader than the hero stories in The Fifth Reader. Again, we have three from ancient traditions: Siddartha from ancient India, the Iliad from Ancient Greece, and hero tales from the Hebrew Bible. From the Middle Ages come the stories of King Arthur of Britain, Roland of France, and The Cid ​of Spain. Also included in this volume are two heroes from works of fiction set in the Middle Ages: Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe and Cervantes' Don Quixote. The child who has progressed through both The Fifth Reader and The Sixth Reader will have a solid f​amiliarity with heroes from the epic tradition.

If you child is eager to ​read more about these heroes, consider adding some of these titles to his personal library: The Iliad for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church, Stories of Don Quixote Written Anew for Children by James Baldwin, Stories of Roland Told to the Children by H. E. Marshall, and The Story of Roland by James Baldwin.

​The takeaway

​After reviewing the Table of Contents ​for all seven of the readers, I am struck by what a well-rounded course of literature this is! Prose progressing from the simplest folk tales to fairy tales full of twists and turns, with wonder stories as well as myths and legends introduced at just the right age, and concluding with ​over a dozen hero tales to inspire the child approaching adolescence. Each selection is like a pebble cast into a pool, with ever widening circles beckoning onward.

Similarly with poetry. Mother Goose comes first, followed by Christina Rossetti over two years and Stevenson spanning three. Next come Longfellow and Tennyson along with a strong cohort of other poets contributing poetry in a variety of genres. Humorous and lyrical poetry abound, with ballads and narrative poetry added in the upper years.

The titles in this series are a fine choice to use as readers through the sixth grade. But beyond that, they would also serve well as family read alouds, as independent reading, and for an older child to read to a younger.

Share your experience

​​Have you used any of The Reading-Literature Readers with your family? What has been your experience? Please share in the comments!

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