Reading with the Kids (Weekly Geeks 2009-13)

This week, Becky proposed two different Weekly Geeks topics related to literary observances this month:

April 2nd was International Children’s Book Day, which inspired Option A: Be A Kid!
The entire month is National Poetry Month, and therefore Option B is Be A Poet!

I am not about to write a poem and inflict it on y’all, so I am left with Option A, for which Becky offered several suggestions:

You could read a picture book (or two or three) and share what you read.
Write up a post sharing your favorite books from childhood (been there, done that)
Write up a post about reading together with your child(ren)

This assignment’s timing coincides perfectly with a book that I’m currently reading for review called What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read With Your Child – and All The Best Times to Read Them by Pam Allyn. The book was released on April 2, so someone planned that quite well, and it fits nicely with the third suggestion. (Look for the review either this weekend or early next week.)

One aspect of parenting that I particularly enjoyed was nurturing a reader. Bedtime reading with my son was a ritual by the time he was a year old, and that included reading before naps too; once he was able to sit and look at the book with me while we read, we got going. We began with very simple picture books, and moved on from there to stories. A couple of his early favorites were books he inherited from his father’s childhood library, like How Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together and Alexander, the story of a red-and-green-striped horse who belonged to a boy named Chris (just like my boy – no wonder he liked it!). Later, he became attached to Where the Wild Things Are, Make Way for Ducklings, Put Me in the Zoo, and quite a few others, but my own favorite books to read to and with him were always Dr. Seuss’ (for the record, that’s my idea of poetry). By the time he was four, he knew some of those books well enough to begin “reading” them by himself, and it wasn’t long before he was reading – for real. We continued to read together at bedtime, though, until he decided he’d rather read on his own; I made the same choice after I learned to read myself, so I really couldn’t fault him for that.

What to Read When emphasizes reading aloud to and with your kids and includes diverse book suggestions for any age and a variety of situations, but it’s more than a book of recommended-reading lists. I was particularly intrigued by what Ms. Allyn identifies as “Landmark” books, which she defines as

“…(books that) serve some crucial purpose in the American landscape toward furthering both a child’s view of the world and also the adult reader’s sense of what it means to be a child.”

Ms. Allyn notes that “children’s literature,” as we know it today, didn’t really emerge until almost the middle of the 20th century – which means that we, our parents, and our kids are lucky to have come along when we did! Some of her Landmarks were favorites around our house, including Make Way for Ducklings, which I’ve already mentioned – when we went to Boston the summer before my son started kindergarten, we visited the statue in the Public Garden that commemorates the book; Curious George; The Cat in the Hat and Horton Hears a Who!, and Where the Wild Things Are.

Ms. Allyn includes the Harry Potter books on this list, and I can see that. I’ve known a number of parents who have told me that their kids weren’t readers until they discovered Harry. However, since most of the serious Harry Potter fans I know – including myself – are well past the age of 12 (or 18, or even 30), I sometimes forget that these are “children’s books.”

Are there any children’s books that are “landmarks” for you or your children?

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6 comments

  1. landmarks? I trace my teen’s reading development through Harry Potter. When he was young, Grandma read him the first books in the series. When he was in fifth grade, he read The Sorcerer’s Stone. As the 5th, 6th, and the final came out, we read them together: he with his Braille copy, me with my print copy. Now he’s 17, and we’re enjoying the Tales of Beedle the Bard together. I feel privileged that he’ll read with me, even though he’s a teenager!

  2. Daisy – I think quite a few parents have similar stories about their kids and Harry Potter, although the way you and your son have read the books together is a bit unconventional. And I think it’s great that you DO still read together!

    Harriet – Can’t wait to read it; it’s always fun to inspire a blog post :-).

  3. Gautami – I’m not sure Enid Blyton was published in the US; I don’t recall hearing of her except from people who grew up in other countries. I wonder what we’ve missed?

    I love your book-review verse. Poetry isn’t my thing, but it’s certainly yours – thanks for sharing the link!