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One of My Favorite Things

April 12, 2013

One of my favorite parts of being a mom is books.  I am a reader and have been all of my life (in case you haven’t picked up on that over here yet).  When I taught fourth grade, I would read children’s literature–commonly the Bluebonnet Nominees every year, plus whatever the kids were reading that didn’t seem like it was trash.  Most of my adult fiction, I read during the summer (and then I read massive amounts of poorly written adult fiction).

Once I stopped I teaching, I stopped reading children’s literature as much.  It’s only in the past few months I’ve started reading children’s literature again.  When my kids were little, my days (and bedtimes) were filled with books by David Shannon, Mo Willems, and Virginia Lee Burton.  We read all sorts of books, trying to stay away from those horrid beginner readers on Spiderman, Transformers, Star Wars, or Disney movies.  In my mind, I have already made a list of which books I’m planning on saving for my grandchildren and which are making the quickest trip out of my house.

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However, my oldest is now devouring chapter books.  I have pulled down my boxes of books, one by one, that are full of the books I offered to my fourth graders.  I steer her towards some books and away from others.  Some books are still too hard (she’s not quite ready for The Secret Garden yet), others I am worried about the subject matter.  I am finding I need to create criteria for the books she reads.  I am also starting to read books along with her, or after her.

My Criteria for books for my kids:

1.  The book will not give them bad dreams at night.  For us, that means no gruesome deaths, no evil, dark characters.  My kids haven’t figured out that there is evil in this world.  They don’t understand it.  That’s not something I need them learning too soon.  They’ll have most of their life to know that.  There has to be some perks to childhood.

2.  The kids need to love the books. If it’s a book I hate, preferably they can read the book themselves or convince their daddy to read it to them.

3.  Books about junior high/middle school girls having crushes on boys and problems with friends can wait another 3 or so years for Madeleine.  This is directly related to number 1.  (Not that junior high girls are evil, per se, but those are not things Madeleine can identify with, which makes understanding the book more difficult).

4.  Books with loss, sadness, and death are ok.  Madeleine understands all three.  Her best friend moved to India this school year.  She’s mourned his loss deeply.  These things happen and are part of  life, and Madeleine can identify with them.

In one of the professional books I am reading right now, it is talking about the implementation of readers’ workshop.  The theory is that the more kids read, the better readers they’ll be.  It doesn’t matter what they read, as long as they are able to read it, enjoy it, and understand it.  However, as the author, Nancie Atwell, points out, it’s not enough to just have children reading.  The teacher’s role is to help guide the readers.  The concept sounds simple to implement on first look.  However, as I read farther, Atwell pointed out that teachers need to read a plethora of books to help guide children into new books and to help students think more deeply about books.

I realized how much that pertains to me as a parent.  Maybe I feel like it is important because I love reading.  Maybe it’s because I think many, many children’s books (not picture books) are better written than most of the stuff you pick up on the new fiction table at the bookstore.  Maybe it’s because I’m a former teacher (and will always be a teacher deep down).

Last week, Madeleine read a book that was a bit above her maturity level.  The main character had a mentally disabled mother, didn’t know her father, and was partly raised by her neighbor with agoraphobia.  In the course of the book, she travels across country by herself on the bus, learns hard truths about her family and history, and loses her mother.  I was worried it was bit much for a second grader, so I read the book too.  One of my favorite things of the past week was talking to Madeleine about the book and helping her process the book.  It was an eye opener for her that not all families were just like ours.  Because I read the book, I could have deeper conversations with her and push to think about things a bit differently.  It was fabulous.

With my middlest, it will be a different story–he enjoys fantasy more than Madeleine does.  We’re on book seven on The How to Train A Dragon series.  Again, this book is a little bit above my son’s vocabulary.  That provides us with ample opportunities to talk about new words.  It has also has a bit of inappropriate language, one of the character’s name is Big Boobied Bertha (and lest you think this derogatory, it’s not–her ample bosom is one of her biggest strengths).  This leads us to discussions about inappropriate and appropriate language.

I’ve also discovered graphic novels.  My middlest and youngest love those books that resemble comic books.  I must say, graphic novels have come a long way since I was a kid.  Now they have novels at all levels, they’re clever, and they’re not all violent.  John loves the Korgi books, which are without any words at all (which makes it a great church book).  Isaac has discovered the Geronimo Stilton graphic novels at the library which are about 5 years to advanced for him.  He loves them though so I read them (and I don’t hate them–see criteria #2).  The Bluebonnet nominees include one graphic novel every year as well.

No matter when my kids start reading (Madeleine was an excellent reader by the end of kindergarten, reading Magic Tree House–which also fits under criteria #2.  As John finishes kindergarten he’s just starting to read.  He still loves books and I’m trying everything I can to keep it that way, even as he gets frustrated with his own progress), I want them to love reading.  I know that will mean finding different books for each kid.

I also know that means I will be reading a lot more children’s literature in years to come.  And that’s just fine with me.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2013 10:49 am

    That’s a great picture. I like that you can recommend good kid’s books for Lali. She looooves Polo.

    • April 19, 2013 12:18 pm

      So glad Lali loves Polo! I have a pretty good feeling that Lali will be getting all sorts of books from us for the years to come. I kinda have a problem with books. 🙂

  2. April 21, 2013 7:05 am

    Reblogged this on My Day Out With An Angel.

  3. Carmen permalink
    May 8, 2013 4:07 pm

    This post of yours has come to my mind several times. The book recommendation I have and resource that I love is Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. Maybe you would too?

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