Monday, May 24, 2010

Questions Answered – May 24, 2010

We’ve seen examples of good parenting books – what are your favorite books for kids?
--Wants a Literate Litter

Millie Answers:

Dear me; I am so rabidly pro-children’s-books that you may as well ask me which is my favorite child. We will have to answer this question over the course of several entries.

A child can comprehend a book that is much more complex than his current reading level, and I read aloud to my kids every night until they were too grown-up and scattered to do it any more. (Frankly if they were still all in the same place at the same moment for any length of time, I would STILL read to them.) Reading aloud is also a great way to bridge the gap if your audience has a wide range of ages.

When you’re reading aloud, don’t be afraid to ham it up. I actually got so involved doing different voices that I’d have to pencil a reminder in the front of some of the longer books, i.e. “Sam sounds like Barney Fife.” One of my most rewarding parenting moments was when we walked out of the first “Harry Potter” movie and the kids unanimously agreed that it was “so cool the movie had gotten Snape’s voice right!”

Here, in no particular order or age category, are 5 favorites!

10 in a Bed
, by Allan Ahlberg and Andre Amstutz. This book can be hard to find but it’s well worth the search. It’s a delightful cross between 101 Arabian Nights and a Dave Barry column. Dinah Price eats breakfast each morning, goes to school, plays with her friends, comes home, fools around and then goes to her room only to find a different fairy-tale character tucked into her bed. This book appeals to all ages, including Daddies, and nicely fulfills my #1 Rule of Read-Alouds: it is as much fun for the reader as it is for the audience.

Gregor the Overlander
series, by Suzanne Collins. This series of books about a boy who discovers a way into a hidden world through the laundry room of his New York City apartment complex is so riveting you might find yourself urging a child to stay awake “just for one more chapter.” There’s some swashbuckling violence and minor themes of sickness and death, so you’ll definitely want to read the books yourself first to decide whether your child is old enough to hear them yet; but I charmed a reluctant middle-school boy with this series when home schooling, and it remains one of our mutual favorites.

The Indian in the Cupboard series, by Lynne Reid Banks. If you’ve only seen the movie, you don’t know the story. This is a nice long series with well-defined characters and it broaches themes that will prompt many lovely conversations between you and your child. Again, it contains some cowboys-and-Indians violence and maturer themes so be sure you’re ready to talk about it.

The Magic Shop books by Bruce Coville. Starting with Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher and finishing with The Skull of Truth, these five books are just fantastic romps. They’re funny, suspenseful and appealing to kids of any age (and a large number of adults, too).

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. You owe it to both your child and yourself to read this book. Forget the silly film by the same name and immerse yourself in 384 pages of wonder and magic. When you come up for air after you’ve finished reading, you’ll be aware of two things: sadness that it’s over, and an enhanced appreciation for everything around you.

Mollie writes:

Well, there was a high level of guy-dom in our home, and as a result, we loved anything by Maurice Sendak.  Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen were books I loved reading to the boys, as well as Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (anything by Dr. Seuss is a must).  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff is a splendid read, especially if you are encouraging the gift of irony in your child.

My guys also loved The Berenstain Bears series.  I liked that the authors were able to take issues from popular culture and incorporate them into a story that was relevant to the times the child was experiencing.  I think we had at least 60 percent of the series before they tired of bear morality.

Also, don't forget ''parallel" reading with your child, meaning that you both read the same books to yourselves simultaneously.  My youngest loved anything by J. R. R. Tolkien, and we'd read anything, including the Bored of the Rings spoof by the Harvard Lampoon  (ages 15 and up).   The Harry Potter series was so popular at our house that I'd pre-order it on Amazon in twos (one for the kids, one for the folks) and we'd race through them to see who could finish first.  We kept this up from The Sorcerer's Stone through Deathly Hallows.  It was a real trip for all of us.


  1. I LOVED the Magic Shop books. AND "Indian in the Cupboard". Maaan, now I'm gonna have to go kid book shopping. =D

  2. Mollie, we did almost the same thing with the Harry Potter books; we'd buy one and Arthur would buy one, so that whatever house the kids were sleeping in that night they'd get the next chapter of the story. In between readings we had to hide our copy from Sassy and Bender or they'd have devoured the whole thing in an afternoon!

  3. You make me excited for when they are just a bit older. :) We read smallish books now, and finished Little Pilgrims Progress about a month ago, so I know they can handle me reading chapter books to them... I shall try some of these to see if they'd be interested at this young age.



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