A Simple and Fun Family Tradition – Perfect for Cold Winter Evenings

By November 23, 2011Get Inspired

When I think of books, I think of my Grandmother. (Isn’t she gorgeous?!)

Cold winter evenings. White chaise lounge. Snuggled on Grandma’s lap along with my brother. Listening to her read The Chronicles of Narnia and laughing uncontrollably whenever she came to the phrase “poop deck.”

Summer afternoons. Root beer floats. A pile of books. Screened in porch. Sitting beside Grandma as she read her novel, while I became Nancy Drew for an hour or two.

These are the kinds of memories I hope to make with my children.

A New Family Tradition

A few months ago my husband started a wonderful new family tradition. Each week he picks out new books from the library and we have a hot chocolate read aloud time.

It’s been so fun to cuddle up with the kids, chase marshmallows around our cups of cocoa and listen to wonderful tales of far away places.

The inspiration behind this new ritual of ours was a book called Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson. (Sarah is the daughter of Sally Clarkson, who wrote one of my favorite motherhood books – Mission of Motherhood.)

Read for the Heart is basically a book about great books. Sarah has listed and summarized wonderful books for every age range. Some of the books have a Christian theme, others do not. But all of them share a great story of character.

We’ve enjoyed all the books we’ve discovered through it and many of them have opened up great conversations and learning opportunities with our kids. 

My manly hunter husband affectionately refers to this book as “the book I’ve been looking for my whole life.” It’s such an incredible reference for us to be able to bring excellent (in both quality and character) literature into our home.

I’m pretty sure we’ve recommended it to everyone who’s walked into our house in the last 8 weeks. So, I thought it was about time I told all of you about it as well!

I’m especially excited about cold weather coming so we can read by the fire. But…we live in Texas so that will happen twice. Maybe.

And Your Favorite Books Are?

What are some of your favorite books? Do you like to read as a family? Click here to share a comment.

(Speaking of Sally Clarkson, if you’re in the DFW – North Texas area, don’t miss her MomHeart Conference in February. I’d love to see you there!)

Leave a Comment



  • Avatar Beth W. says:

    This sounds awesome! I just bought it as a family Christmas book – my husband will LOVE it. Thanks!

    • Avatar Kat says:

      You’re welcome! It’s been such a blessing to our family, I’m glad to pass it on! Hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

      • Avatar Beth W. says:

        Ok, this post really should have come with a warning label! Warning: you will immediately want to get on Amazon and order lots and lots of books for your family for Christmas!”

  • Avatar Heather says:

    Love this! My oldest son just started kindergarten at a classical Christian school and they “sold” me on the benefits and joy that come with reading aloud classical literature. We just finished “lion, the witch, & the wardrobe”. I never would have attempted reading that to a 6,4&2 yr old but they loved it! I will definitely be checking out Sarah’s book! Thanks kat!

    • Avatar Kat says:

      So fun! I’ve heard that Focus on the Family has a great audio version of the Chronicles of Narnia. I bet your littles would love it on road trips.

      Also, I’m still loving’ my whistle. 😉

  • Well, as you can probably tell by my blog name, I do LOVE reading! 🙂

    As a kid I also loved Nancy Drew, The Chronicles of Narnia, Trixie Belden, and the Prydain Chronicles.

    As an adult, recent favorite authors are Henning Mankell, Georgette Heyer, Deanna Raybourn, and Robin Hobb. I haven’t heard of the book you mention, but it sounds awesome, I’ll have to look into it!

  • Avatar Liberty says:

    Oh we began this nightly tradition 2 years ago with JOthm’s journey. IT’s a serial Advent story, y’all would love. They will hold the attention of the entire family.
    We also just finished a book on Ann Voskamp’s reading list – super sweet and help the attention of even a 5 year old : wee Sir Gibbie of the Highlands. Worth whatever you have to pay for a copy.

    And I HAVE to mention the Wilderking trilogy. *It will pull you in before the end of the first chapter – my criteria for a good family read aloud* Bark of the bog owl is the name of the first book – such great reading. So good we traded many a movie night for extra reading time. Your hunter hubs will adore, so will the kiddos.

    We went to see a movie last weekend – just Adam Sandler brain candy and came home to read Gibbie. After reading longer than were at the theater, I said this book is like a good steak – that movie was just sponge cake. I got a hearty AMEN from a 14, 11, 8 and 5 year old.

    I hope we are making memories that will last forever.


    • Avatar Kat says:

      There’s just a treasure of book references there! And I forgot about Ann Voskamp’s list. Now I’m getting giddy about going to the library!

  • Way back when I was first starting to homeschool our youngest was diagnosed with leukemia. I was overwhelmed with how I could possibly homeschool through 3 1/2 years of chemo. I asked several teacher friends what I could do and they said read to them, just read good books to them.

    That with my husbands encouragement that if we did Bible and prayer and that was all we got done we could say we had a good day were the encouragement I needed to keep on course with homeschooling through leukemia.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      I can’t imagine how much that took out of you. What wise input from your friends and husband. It’s amazing what we can learn from a good book. I’m quite sure I learned more about WWII from a books series by Brock and Bodie Thoene than I did from my college history classes.

  • Avatar rachael says:

    I love reading to my kids and getting extra snuggle time! I have been using “Honey for a Child’s Heart” which is basically the same as the book you mentioned, to order amazing character building books from the library. I will have to try Read for the Heart too!

  • Avatar Nana B. says:

    As always,I love what you and Jimmy are doing to raise great children Reading is so important. ANd yes. She was gorgeous inside and out. luved her,too.

  • Avatar Linda says:

    We loved Winnie the Pooh when the girls were little. A Little Princess and A Secret Garden when they were upper elementary. Agatha Christie mysteries now that they are teens. All of a Kind Family, The House of Sixty Fathers, The Kildee House…I better stop!!

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Don’t stop! I haven’t heard of many of those. I’ll have to add them to our list for when my kids get a lot older. (I refuse to acknowledge that I will have a teenager in less than 4 years….) 🙂

  • Avatar Melissa says:

    I have been reading to my oldest since she was six months old. We like Winnie the Pooh, Thomas the Train, anything with Eric Carle’s pictures, “Make Way for Ducklings”, “Guess How Much I Love You”, Madeline, and our Bible stories of course. There is also a great book by Max Lacado called “Just in Case You Ever Wonder.” I love the message of that book.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      I love that book by Max Lucado too! There’s another one he wrote that is possibly my all time favorite book (yes, even though it’s a kids book) It’s called You Are Special – it’s a must own.

  • Avatar Heather says:

    I have 2 boys and a girl ranging from 3 to 8. We have enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia, The Betsy-Tacy series, Faerie Gold and Homer Price.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Fun! I haven’t heard of the Betsy-Tacy series. I love giving my kids a good series and watching them dive into it.

  • Avatar Joyce says:

    I am the hugest bookworm. I think it’s contagious because my girls LOVE books!!…so much so that my 4yo reads chapter books. =p Our weekly trips to the library have us bringing back about 20 books each time. My favorite series growing up was The Babysitter’s Club. My 4yo likes Cam Jansen, Rainbow Magic, and Butterfly Meadow right now. Love Sandra Boynton and Eric Carle. Obviously, I have littler ones. hehe As for me, I just about read any and everything. Recent reads that I have enjoyed are by Andy Stanley and Max Lucado. About to start Thunder Dog (co-authored by a local here/former classmate’s aunt), but I would love to read Mission of Motherhood/Ministry of Motherhood.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Your 4 year old reads chapter books? Really? Wow! That’s great.

      My kids love Cam Jansen too. I haven’t heard of Rainbow Magic or Butterfly Meadow. Thanks for sharing!

  • Avatar Erin says:

    Although it’s already been mentioned, I have to reiterate how great Gladys Hunt’s, “Honey for a Child’s Heart” is! The book list it includes is fabulous, but I think her chapters on why, how and what to read to your children are so inspiring. I highly recommend it. We love Beatrix Potter, Robert McCloskey, Viginia Burton, and I am just about finished reading the Little House on the Prarie series to my oldest. I could go on and on….

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Have you heard the Little House Audiobooks by Cherry Jones. They are a family favorite. My husband has even been known to drive slow and out of his way, just to keep listening. Soooo good.

  • So honored to see this article. Don’t you love those snuggle on the couch and read times?–You can see their little souls growing. Thanks so much for telling others about our books. Bless you, sweet friend.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Thanks for stopping by Sally! And for providing us all with such a treasure of resources as we walk this road of mothering.

  • Avatar Krissa says:

    Just added that book to my wish list! One book I love (especially at this time of year) is The Tale of The Three Trees.

  • Our at home children are 20, 22, and 24, doing distance ed and one of our favorite pastimes is still having Dad read to us in the evenings. We always have at least 2 books in process and all three children are avid readers.

    • Avatar Kat says:

      Oh that’s so wonderful Phyllis! I hope our family will continue to enjoy reading together even as they get older. That’s so encouraging!

  • Thanks Kat. As an “older woman” I love to be able to encourage younger moms. All those seemingly little daily things that you make happen – having them make their beds, have a quiet time, teaching and teaching them again and again what Godly character looks like – it really works. It is a joy to see the “fruit” of all those seemingly little daily things. So keep up the good work! Do your best and let the Lord do the rest.

  • Avatar Joy says:

    Love it! I love the idea of sipping hot chocolate and reading together. We have loved the Chronicles of Narnia too, and our very favorite read alouds are the Little House books. My hubby reads them all aloud to us and we all oooh and ahhh over the amazing food Ma makes. 🙂 Love this post!!

  • Avatar Sheila says:

    I’m always on the lookout for ideas for great books to read with my kids so thanks for sharing about this one – I’m going to have to look for it!