Reading Lord of the Rings to Very Young Children

I’d been avoiding posting on this for some time now. I’m not even sure when we started reading it. But we’re on an even keel now, and the kids look forward to it every night, so I think we’ll actually finish it.

For those not familiar with our family situation, we have a 6 year old boy and a 5 year old girl as our primary listeners. Our six month old daughter also listens in, but I don’t think she understands much. Our 2 year old son was too disruptive early on, so now he’s with Mom playing video games while I read to the others.

This is much harder than The Hobbit. I strongly recommend starting with The Hobbit – it is far more kid-friendly and uses an adjusted vocabulary. Also, the prose gets right to the point (relatively speaking, this is still JRRT’s writing and one of the joys of his prose is a luxurious slow pace).

We don’t go very fast – four to six pages a night right now, though I expect we’ll do more when things get interesting. I don’t explain words (very often), but use voices and hand motions to get across the mood of any particular piece. And — horror of horrors — I actually sing the songs.

The evening routine goes as follows. We first read picture books with all four kids; Dr. Seuss, Sandra Boynton, Pat the Bunny. They finish their milks, brush their teeth and we set up for the evening reading. Camilla (5 year old daughter) takes care of the baby. Daniel (6 year old son) can lounge or play quietly, which he did early on but now spends his time listening to the text. I was ready to quit early on as it neither of them appeared to be listening to me. For a few days, I felt I was reading only to myself.

But after a little time, they get used to cadence of the text and listen to it with understanding. It takes time. A few days or even a week. We’re up to page 130 or so (Tom Bombadil’s house) and it’s only now that I’m sure they’re with me.

We’re completely avoiding the movies. They’re too fast paced, and too violent for us to be comfortable with kids this young. They can watch the movies after we finish the book. The second or third time, that is.

Thanks to Nic for the red leather edition for Christmas. It clearly communicates to the kids that this is a special book.

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