Something about my Children’s Literature class in college always rubbed me the wrong way. Perhaps it was the way the professor insisted that we sign up to take turns bringing snacks. More likely, I just didn’t enjoy the books we were sharing very much.
I love reading. I always have. I remember being excited to get sick because that meant I could stay home and read.
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Green was to blame for this love of literature. She read the most wonderful books to us in the afternoon. They didn’t have pictures or flashy, pop-up, interactive, noise making features. They had words, wonderfully crafted and strung together to tell a story that put pictures right into my mind. I loved that time after lunch when we sat in our desks and the world went quiet to everything except the sound of her voice weaving a story. I knew then, the importance of learning to read. Ramona Quimby was a girl I could like, and those kids from The Boxcar Children had such amazing adventures that I could imagine myself there with them.
I read the book, Gone with the Wind when I was in middle school. I loved it then and I still enjoy re-reading it to find the little tidbits I didn’t truly understand at that tender age. When I finally saw the movie, I was disappointed. It’s a great film, mind you… The book just held so much more for me. I also remember reading The Odyssey and imagining the scenes as they unfolded. I’m glad I haven’t seen a movie for that book as I doubt it could keep up with my imagination.
Despite my love of reading, the current favorites in the children’s literature world leave me a bit cold. We read a lot of them, mind you. My kids love the library and they enjoy the quirky little stories and the gimmicky little books as much as the next kid. I must admit, I LOVE the Llama Llama books very much! There are many children’s books I could recommend, but there are also many “duds” that make me wonder why the publishers bothered.
I suppose I am not easily impressed with lift the flaps or with bright shiny covers. I am turned off completely by what I would call “social agenda” books. I also dislike the books based on cartoon characters.
Sometimes, I feel so thankful that my eldest’s early reading ability forced me to look for age appropriate books on her skill level. It has opened up a world that has been, largely, unknown to me. I’m so glad my knowledge of children’s literature has not been limited to the trendy and often flashy examples which were shared in my education courses or the ones that pass as literature in the children’s reading textbooks.
I have found a wealth of books I never knew existed. Books that are rich in words, challenging in vocabulary, straining the imagination with their descriptions of unknown worlds. I am growing to love these books which are, quite simply, the classics.
Kipling’s “Just So Stories” started the adventure for us. We loved learning “How the Elephant Got His Trunk” and “How the Camel Got His Hump.”
We journeyed along with Laura Ingalls as she grew up in the Little House Series. A favorite from my childhood, to be sure.
We found the original version of Winnie the Pooh to be much deeper and better than the one we found on the Disney movies and books.
We are discovering the nature filled worlds of Thornton W. Burgess in his book, “The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad.”
What amazes me about these wonderful books is the timelessness and joy of the words they hold. Even my four year old listened attentively for five chapters as Unc Billy the possum and Jimmy the Skunk trailed Mr. Toad to the Smiling Pool to see what he was really up to. The children enjoyed the black and white drawings that were included in the book every ten pages or so, to be sure… But I know they were painting their own pictures in their heads along the way.
So, on your next trip to the library, skip past those flashy picture books and go hunting for timeless classics bound in plain gray or green or yellow, and read them aloud to your little ones. Let the author’s words, penned one hundred years ago, speak to your children. Let your darlings dive into the deep end of children’s literature where their imaginations will take them to great places.
I bet you’ll find yourself enjoying children’s literature again, too!
For a great list of classic books, check out the book list on http://www.amblesideonline.org/index.shtml.
Many great classics are available for free download on your Kindle.
So, what was your favorite book when you were a child? What do you love reading with your children? Have you visited/re-visited any of the old classics? Hope you’ll share with us! :)