The first book we read aloud at the start of our school year was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner.I admit, I was a bit skeptical at first. This book has 13 chapters, 154 pages, with only a few, small, black and white pictures in each chapter. Up until this point we had read only picture books, or short stories that didn't have pictures, but were quick to read. I didn't think either of the kids would like this book.
But since I bought the book, and the curriculum told me to read it to my kindergartner, then I felt I had no choice but to try. We started reading, and although Elijah balked at first, he really did start to enjoy the story of 3 homeless, orphaned children who live in an abandoned boxcar. They survive using some ingenious ideas to meet their daily needs and rely on each other to help make their life fulfilling.
What helped make this book age appropriate for my 5.5 year old is the simple language used. Written in 1942 (yes, Elijah, older than Grandpa!) the sentences are not complex, and made it easier for Elijah to follow along. There were very few words I had to define for him to understand what happened in each chapter. And as always, after we finished reading, I would ask him comprehension questions and was always surprised by how much he understood and retained. We even talked through some of the "why's" of the children's behavior.
Apparently this is a series, but I think we'll stop while we are ahead, and maybe read some more of the Boxcar Children this summer.
Verdict: read this to your kids and be prepared for them to play "Boxcar Children" for weeks to come.