Children's Books: Those Worth Reading Again and Again!
I grew up with many books. Books of almost every kind were available. We frequented the library, and even made our own books.
Some one was always reading: Reading for pleasure. Reading to learn. Reading to understand. Reading, because one could.
Most books were read once or twice, but a few were read again and again. They were read aloud in groups, and silently, to one's self. They were read for pleasure and understanding. Often, we couldn't say which it was. There was simply something, like a friend, that always drew us back again.
Some of the books were simple and full of pictures. Some can hold an adults attention as well as any child's. Some, though written for children, never seem to lack depth. These are the ones I love best.
"Read much, but not many books."
Little Golden Books
My Little Golden Books were one of my first loves. I had an abundance of them, and my mom was never too busy to read them to me.
I remember lining their golden spines up on my little bookshelf, and telling my baby brother he could not use them to build roads. I remember looking at them over and over... studying the pictures and dreaming of the day when I could read them to myself.
Of all the ones I owned, a few always inspired me: Tootle, the little train who loved to race across the meadow, but learned staying on the tracks was better. He helped me to see that obedience and patience are better than immediate reward. They lead to greatness (and a lack of trouble).
The Poky Little Puppy, The Saggy Baggy Elephant, Tawny Scrawny Lion and The Three Little Pigs all excited my imagination, far beyond what the stories told.
I recall setting out with my brother, to make our own way in the world. We knew we simply needed to walk down the road until some kindly stranger offered us building materials, then we would build ourselves a house. We knew all about building houses -- we had looked at enough illustrations in my dad's building books, and if pigs could do it, we certainly could. I don't think my parents ever understood that we were not running away...
Then there was Little Black Sambo (also sold as The Boy and The Tigers), who tricked tigers into taking his clothes instead of eating him, and then he got them to fight one another... until they turned into butter! At which time he was able to get his clothes back. Did you know that if you run fast enough you will melt into butter?
No matter how fast we ran around a tree we never melted. I guess we just couldn't run fast enough.
These are stories I enjoy sharing with my children, and they love them too. They will have their own silly stories to tell -- of the crazy things they have been inspired to do and the theories they have been inspired to try out.
Peter Rabbit and Beyond
Beatrix Potter has always been one of my favorite authors. Her stories are full of imagination, putting animals and people on the same terms, without ever forgetting that the pig is to be eaten. Her paintings never cease to delight, as seen by the constant array of baby bedding and nursery decorations they inspire.
My boys love to hear the stories as much as I love to read them. We look through the pictures, talking of what life was like 100 years ago. They are amazed that the stories have withstood the test of time: 100 years ago, before their great-grandparents were even born, children loved the stories they love today.
Every time we read a story, my five year old declares that HE Will have a book just like mine, and read it to his children, when he is grown. Then he wants help to do the math, and know just how old the stories will be by then.
While there are many fairy tales to choose from, my favorite authors have always been Hans Christian Anderson, and The Brothers Grimm.
I have several collections by each author and have read them to my children again and again. I prefer the older versions, which have not been dumbed down, or made politically correct. I appreciate the oddities and unusual things that happen in the stories; things that challenge our way of thinking and allow for discussion on various topics.
Having all boys, I find The Brothers Grimm to be our favorite, as the stories are very imaginative and rather 'dark'. For example, in their version of Cinderella, called Ashenputtle, the step sisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit them into the shoe. They are found out by the dripping blood. Boys love that!
Fairy tales are much like history. They show how people lived and thought. They show what is acceptable and what is not. True, reality is stretched to the impossible and time is of no importance, but there are greater lessons to be learned, and the learning is so pleasant, it hardly seems like education.
Chapter books are not just for those who can read to themselves. By age four, a child who has been read to consistently, should be able to follow a chapter book from day to day. This is not just my thought: By the time Lois May Alcott was four, her father had read Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan to her several times.
Chapter books are among my favorites for rereading, for while one may know the story, it is not memorized; and, as a person grows, they will glean new information and knowledge. The story will touch them in some new manner.
Growing up, Old Bones, a story of a race horse, was one that I read several times, after my mom had read it aloud.
Others that have been read and reread in this home are The Little House Books, by Laura Ingalls. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis and books by Kate Dicamillo.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J. R. R. Tolkien will soon be added to this list. Currently, we are enjoying listening to an unabridged audio version.
Too Many Books!
There are so many books I have loved again and again. So many to be read over and over, it seems there will not be enough time to read them all as much as they deserve.
What books have you read repeatedly? Either as and adult or a child?
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"Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live."