by Lisa Ripperton
May 2, 2019
In an earlier post Not Just at Bedtime we suggested reading aloud at meal-time. In this post we present the possibility of reading independently at some of your family meals.
When I was growing up in the 1950s as the middle child of five, our family breakfast was definitely not a formal affair. We all walked to public schools in different directions that had staggered starting times, so our breakfasts were staggered too. Choice of cold cereal with topping of fruit was what was typically set out for us on the counter separating the kitchen from the dining room. With only four stools, we had to take turns. Eating breakfast in that way, I read the backs of more cereal boxes than I care to count. How I wish there had been some more interesting reading material laid out next to the boxes of cereal!
What my younger self would have appreciated
An assortment of books for different reading levels
If you want to try this out with your family, I suggest you gather a few books at the right reading level for each of your children, books that they can read easily and will especially appreciate. Hardbacks work best because they are more likely to lie flat when open. But don't offer up your prized books for breakfast reading. Expect that cereal and milk will find their way onto the pages, so worn copies from a thrift shop will be a better fit. Only put a few out at a time and rotate them regularly so there is always something new on the "menu."
Below are some ideas for types of books that you might use in this context. I purposely chose books from a variety of genres to get you thinking about the possibilities.
Dolch folk tales for emerging readers
In the Dolch Basic Vocabulary Series the emphasis is on presenting interesting subject matter in a literary way, all the while employing a simple vocabulary with an average of less than one new word per page. The pages, which feature large text and spacious margins, do not have the look of a "school reader," so they are a good match for students just beginning to read independently at home. Stories vary in length but most are five pages, and typically take less than five minutes to read. Sample pages from the three titles pictured above appear below, followed by a graphic showing a list of all the titles in the series.
STEP-UP books for the next level
The STEP-UP books are fine choices for children once they are comfortable with reading and are ready to explore on their own. According to the publisher, in the STEP-UP series,
Below is a list of the books in two categories of STEP-UP books: Nature Library and the Story of America. Then sample covers are displayed for three of the titles in the Nature Library and one in Story of America, followed by sample page spreads from these same volumes.
Minute biographies for older readers
I have long been a fan of the minute biographies illustrated by Samuel Nisenson with text written by others. Each biography spans one or at most two 8 1/2 x 11 pages. There is an illustration by Nisenson at the top of each biography that draws the reader in and sets the stage for the story that follows. While each biography includes an outline of the individual's life, the focus is on the major impact that he had in his field of endeavour, whether for good or ill. The stories are interestingly told with enough detail to fix the reader's attention, but with more to discover upon further inquiry.
Below are sample covers for three books in this series along with sample page spreads.
Here is a list of all the books I know about in this series. If you know of others, please let me know. For all titles Samuel Nisenson is the Illustrator.
100 Greatest Sports Heroes by Mac Davis
History's 100 Greatest Composers by Helen L. Kaufman
History's 100 Greatest Events by William A. Dewitt
Illustrated Minute Biographies by William A. Dewitt
Minute Biographies by Alfred Parker
More Minute Biographies by Alfred Parker
Joke books offer something for all ages
Last, but not least, a set of riddle books, enjoyed by everyone! Zany illustrations and easy to read text in Bennett Cerf's Book of Riddles, More Riddles, and Animal Riddles will have your young reader in stitches.
Let children sort out who reads what book
Some days a child may want to read a book at their reading level, but other days they may want to read an easier book, or one that particularly catches their eye, regardless of reading level. Let them decide!
Where to get these books
Sad to say, I strongly suspect that all the books featured in this post are no longer in print. Most, if not all, can be purchased relatively reasonably, though, at used books sites such as bookfinder.com. You may also want to keep an eye out for them at library sales or thrift shops. To preview titles at Internet Archive click on the text links above, the page spreads of the STEP-UP Books, and the covers of the riddle books. When you arrive at Internet Archive you will be able either to Borrow the book immediately or join a Waitlist to access it at a later time. Examining the full text at Internet Archive can help you decide what books might be worth purchasing for your family.
Share your experience
If you are inspired to try serving books for breakfast, please let us know in the comments how it goes! Do you have suggestions for other books that would be good to offer for morning fare?