If you are a parent, you KNOW that you understand exactly what I mean, right? Your kid fixates on some favorite book–which you HATE–and he wants to hear it multiple times a day, sometimes chanting “Again, again!” right after you finish it, like a Teletubby.
After five kids, you had better believe I have done my share of reading to children. And I know how to condense a story and rush my way through a hated book. I honestly don’t get how some of this stuff makes it into print.
But books that parents love to read and kids hate to listen to are no better, are they? I’m thinking about all the beautifully illustrated hardback poetic bedtime story books I’ve bought over the years that, frankly, bored my kids to death. I’d look at them longingly, sitting ignored on the shelf, but Emily was the only one of my children who would put up with listening to baby literature.
Emily is a book addict like me, and she was born that way. Before she could walk, we could sit her in front of her shelf in the bookcase, and she would pull out every book, one at a time, and actually look at each picture (not throw them behind her for fun, like the rest of my kids). You could occupy her for an hour that way. And because she was the first child, and the only one for three years, we read to her all the time. I can recite the entire Dr. Seuss ABC book from memory (you probably can too, so I know you aren’t impressed) and large parts of other children’s books as well, thanks to Emily.
There wasn’t as much time to read to Jake and Teddy. Most of our reading happened at bedtime. They were actually really cooperative about listening to what I would consider “improving” books, like treasures from my beloved Eloise Wilkin collection like Prayers for Children and My Little Golden Book about God. They had a book about the Parables of Jesus that they loved. They asked over and over again to hear the one about “the man in the ditch.”
I am embarrassed to admit how little I have read to Lorelei and William by comparison. I don’t mean I never read to them, but it wasn’t daily, not even at bedtime. Maybe it makes up for it some that Emily likes to read to them. Since we moved here, I read bedtime stories to Lorelei most nights, usually the books she herself has picked out from her school library. She especially loves the Pee Wee Scout chapter books.
What children’s books do I like? I could write post after post on this topic (Ah! There’s an idea!). I’m not a fan of sappy tearjerkers like I’ll Love You Forever. Make of that what you will. I also loathe gimmicky retreads like If You Give a Moose a Muffin. There was an awesomely hysterical article posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago about horrible children’s books, which I did not repost because of the Bad Word in the title. But I agreed with almost all of it. Except I do think the Amelia Bedelia series is amusing. My new favorite children’s book isn’t exactly for children. But I digress.
Let me share just a few that my kids like and that I don’t mind reading over and over:
I first heard Owl Babies on Reading Rainbow. We bought the board book and Jake and Teddy loved it. We changed the three owls’ names to Emily, Jake, and Teddy. I never tired of reading it and they never tired of hearing it. The underlying message–that Mommy ALWAYS comes back–is organic, not tiresome and preachy.
More More More Said the Baby is a feast of bright colors and baby love. It’s multicultural without screaming “Hey, look at how diverse these characters are!” It only has a few words on every page! What more could you ask for?
I think Red Red Red came to us via Imagination Library. As if it weren’t enough that someone surnamed Gorbachev would write a book with that title, it’s a lovely book. I had to read it to Lorelei every night for months so I know. I just love the moment at the end where everyone finds out what is red. What a great reminder to enjoy the little things in life.
Doesn’t EVERYONE love Frog and Toad? I didn’t appreciate them nearly as much as a child as I have come to as a grownup. These books teach friendship by showing it, not preaching about it. Can you tell I hate preachy children’s books? And they are funny, too.
Will you share your favorite picture books with me in the comments?