Some of my most cherished memories of my kids’ younger years are connected to our children’s books. We read to our kids multiple times every day with The Carrot Seed, Caps for Sale, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Curious George, and Olivia topping our list of favorites. When they got a little older, we added books like Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and The Velveteen Rabbit. Once our kids started reading, they chose chapter books—Amelia Bedelia, The Boxcar Children, Ramona, and more. My kids loved to read and constantly consumed books like athletes consume water after a grueling workout. We kept reading to them each night even though they were reading their own books, but at some point, the read alouds stopped—perhaps when they reached their Harry Potter stage and realized they could read to themselves way faster than we could read to them.

A few times each year since my kids grew out of bedtime stories, I’ve tried to read a longer book out loud to them. We’ve tried Pride and Prejudice and The Graveyard Book and others that I can’t recall, but we always only last a couple of weeks. Their protests become too annoying so I give in and stop. Then I feel shame and the internal badgering begins: “Why don’t my kids want to be with me?” “Why don’t they enjoy stories anymore?” “I have failed as a mother.” After about three minutes of this, I realize I’m overreacting and thankfully, God’s grace wins out. The image I’m chasing of me reading with my kids every night for twenty minutes won’t make me a better mom or make them better kids.

But I miss reading to my son and daughter, and I think it’s a good use of our time. Many agree we’re never too old for read alouds. I found this article in the School Library Journal about teachers reading to their older students. In it, Jess deCourcy Hinds writes:

Young people often listen at a higher comprehension level than they read, according to Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (Penguin, 1982), a best seller with more than two million copies sold, and now in its seventh edition. While some educators may view reading aloud as a step backward pedagogically, or not the most productive use of class time, reading aloud can advance teens’ listening and literacy skills by piquing their interest in new and/or rigorous material. It also builds what Trelease calls the “pleasure connection” between the young person and the book and the person reading aloud.

Maybe I’m chasing that connection. With their raging hormones, their increasing autonomy, and our shifting family dynamics, I’d happily take more connections with my 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.

I asked my daughter a few weeks ago why she doesn’t like me reading out loud to her. She said, “It’s just hard to keep up with the stories of the longer books since we don’t do it every day. I’m always trying to remember what you’ve read and connect it to what you’re reading a week later. It’s frustrating.” I get it. That would probably frustrate me, too. So now I’m collecting ideas for shorter read alouds. I’m searching through my essay and short story collections for pieces we can read together in one sitting. And I’m bringing back children’s books.

C.S. Lewis wrote in “On Three Ways of Writing for Children,” “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.” I agree. This is why we all still love The Jesus Storybook Bible. And this is why I ordered Mockingbird’s The Very Persistent Pirate written by CJ Green and illustrated by Maddy Green.

The Very Persistent Pirate tells a tale of a boy and his monkey who happen upon a treasure and decide to steal it. After they are found and their poor choice is discovered, the boy and his monkey end up learning about mercy, forgiveness, and friendship in ways they probably didn’t think were possible. In addition to being a great story, it offers an opportunity for readers (young and old alike) to connect their narratives to the those of the book’s characters and explore the story’s themes in their own lives.

My children and I have read it together and they have read it on their own. We love the themes of grace and celebration explored in this book. We also love the artwork. My daughter especially appreciates the rhythm of the prose and my son especially appreciates the color scheme. And I especially appreciate them sitting still for a few minutes and letting me bask in the expansion of our pleasure connections.

The Very Persistent Pirate is now available on Amazon! You can order your copy here. If you enjoy it as much as Charlotte and her family have, go ahead and leave a review!