photo taken on Saturday late afternoon
Last week my dear friend Annie and I were discussing books our daughters were reading. She asked me if I ever review kids’ books here. No, I said, though I do write the occasional review for Boston Mamas. Our conversation made me want to share some thoughts on reading, children, and specific titles. Hopefully this timing is good, given the upcoming holidays. Books are my favorite gift to give, whether for a birthday or Christmas. I’ve actually been pleased by how Grace and Whit have reacted to this: I expected them to roll their eyes and complain that I wasn’t wrapping up something plastic and battery-operated for their friends’ birthdays. Instead, they’ve gotten involved in helping to assemble a short bunch of their favorite current books, running their hands lovingly over the familiar covers as I stack them for wrapping.
For both my children, beginning to read has been surprisingly binary. I expected that it would be a gradual process. No. In both cases, they were painstakingly sounding out three letter words and literally reading the next.
(An aside: sitting with a child, reading an early reader, biting your tongue while they sound out ddddd….oooooo……ggggggg is among the best metaphors for parenting I know. Likewise: watching a child follow Lego instructions, observing them doing it wrong, watching them get frustrated, and having to sit on your hands to avoid just jumping in and doing it for them)
I still read to both kids, every night, and don’t have any plans to stop. There are a few picture books we all still love, and sometimes even Grace will come to me bearing one of these favorites in her hand. I read to them alone and together, I read to them during meals and in the tub, and, always, I read to them before bed, reminded over and over again how big they are when they jostle around, trying to get comfortable on my lap.
Some treasured picture books:
Space Boy – Leo Landry (a riff on Where the Wild Things Are, with beautiful, dreamy illustrations. both kids love it)
Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child – Bob Graham (the power of the imagination, the existence of magic)
Firefighters in the Dark – Dashka Slater (dreaming, a gender-neutral firefighter, and magical realism)
The Winter King and the Summer Queen – Mary Lister and Ellen Verenieks (the natural world explained through the use of memorable characters, the force of good and sunshine)
Miss Rumphius – Barbara Cooney (leaving the world a more beautiful place, the impact an individual can have on the community he/she lives in, a strong female protagonist)
And some beloved chapter books:
100 Dresses – Eleanor Estes (between a picture book and a chapter book; strong message about bullying, and the content of our character being more important than what we wear)
The Magic Treehouse – Mary Pope Osborne (both of my children began their independent reading with this series and I still love the determined siblings, the empowered girl, and the broad range of historical themes)
Penny Dreadful – Laurel Snyder (Grace’s favorite book of the last year, great message about families being okay no matter what, what is inside of us matters more than our outsides)
Ramona & others – Beverly Cleary (Grace devoured all of Cleary’s books, as did I. i am still charmed by their rambunctious heroine and their depiction of sisterhood and family life as loving, warm, and messy)
Harry Potter – JK Rowling (Where to begin? This is among my favorite books, ever, of all, period. Grace and I are reading them together and she has tumbled as wholly as I did into Harry’s – or, let’s face it, Hermione’s – world)
My own memories of childhood reading, in particular those from when I was Grace’s age, are incredibly rich. So much so, in fact, that I sometimes fall in the trap of pushing books I adored onto her. This has mixed results: she loved From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler and Harriet the Spy, but didn’t “get” Island of the Blue Dolphins and has thus far resisted The Phantom Tollbooth and Anne of Green Gables. Next up in her queue (yes, she has her own stack) is A Wrinkle in Time and if she doesn’t worship it I’m not sure she’s actually my daughter.
Now, I am off to the local bookstore to buy some gifts for nieces, nephews, and godchildren!
What are some of your favorite books from your childhood, or books you have enjoyed reading with your children?
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