In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The benefits of children reading to each other

Dear Aunt Debbie,

As Eleanor's independent reading is progressing (and she's going like a house afire!), we're starting to enjoy some of the benefits of our kids reading to us, and to each other.

Benefit #1: Eleanor finds new authors and series she's really into.  In her classroom, Eleanor "shops for books" once a week, choosing five independent reading books at her level and bringing them back and forth to school every day.  Lately, she's been choosing multiple books by the same author, really paying attention to who's writing what she likes to read. This is how we've gotten a lot of Syd Hoff books into the house: Sammy the Seal, Danny and the Dinosaur, Mrs. Brice's Mice. She loves the cartoony drawings, and the general sense of play throughout Hoff's stories. They're a little meandering, and fun.  Henry and Mudge, who you blogged about a while back, have also become huge favorites here -- the third series by Cynthia Rylant that we've fallen in love with, after Poppleton and The High Rise Private Eyes.  Watching her gain a conscious appreciation for the work of a particular author is a joy.

Benefit #2: Eleanor reads Isabel the crappy books I don't want to read to either of them.  As I'm home with Will full time right now, and Isabel is home with us three days a week, we're going to the library a lot. Isabel's library book picking habits are fairly indiscriminate: she stops in front of a shelf and just pulls out whatever's there, barely looking at it until we sit down to read it there or later.  What she gets most excited about are books she knows, or books with pop culture characters she recognizes.  Each visit, she picks up at least one badly-written series book: a Star Wars industry story, or a godawful Disney princess book, something either cloying or nonsensical in its narrative, and sometimes both.  Then, of course, this is the book she wants me to read to her sixteen times in the next two days.  Imagine my joy when I peeked around the corner of the kitchen into the living room a few days ago and saw Eleanor reading Isabel Rapunzel and the Golden Rule/Jasmine and the Two Tigers!  They were both totally into it, and I didn't have to be involved.

Benefit # 3: Both girls have started reading board books to Will. At three months old, Will is starting to be entertainable at times, and he's really paying attention to his two older sisters.   Among other games (painting his hands and feet with dry paintbrushes, dancing around him, putting hats on his head), they're showing him books. Eleanor caught his attention first with Pat the Bunny, that wonderful old standby with things to touch on every page. It's such an odd, pleasing, dated little book.  The next day, there was Isabel showing him My Friends, by Taro Gomi, a gentle recitation of all the things a little girl learns from the animal kingdom:

I learned to climb from my friend the monkey.

I learned to run from my friend the horse.

I learned to march from my friend the rooster.

I learned to nap from my friend the crocodile.

While all this kid reading has been going on, I've managed to find time to read Fire, Kristin Cashore's second book.  I'm in total agreement with you -- it's not nearly as good as Graceling.  Turns out that skipping it and going straight to Bitterblue was a good idea.

Love, Annie

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