Monday, August 6, 2012

A Good Book Is Hard to Find

Nothing like a good book

Apologies to Flannery O'Connor.

Grace's reading has blossomed in an amazing way this summer since kindergarten ended. She actually sits with a book and just reads independently, by herself, absorbed in book after book after book. It is such a joy to see her become a reader; it makes some deep part of me happy to see her become totally engaged with a book and just want to READ. Also, I will admit to a bit of jealousy as I am not reading as much as I want to be, or as much as I did as a girl, or a single person, or a woman with no children. In this season of life with my three little ones, I read for fun about as much as I did during grad school, which is not really enough.

We've always done reading aloud and we stick to lovely worthwhile classics for those, books that we love that we are so glad we can share for the first time with Grace. Right now Rob is reading through the Narnia series to her, a chapter a time, before she goes to bed. We can't wait to start Harry Potter, and Ballet Shoes, and The Cricket in Times Square, and so forth... I am having a harder time finding books that are just right for her to read by herself, though. She is just at the cusp of being able to read chapter books. The early reader books we have (you know, those paperbacks that star a character like Amelia Bedelia or Eloise but are not the original works) are starting to lose their appeal for her, and she occasionally still enjoys plowing through a pile of picture books, but those options not really challenging to her or moving her skills forward. On the other hand, most of the classic children's chapter books that I think are so wonderful are still a bit too hard for her to read independently. I feel like she's in a challenging in-between place right now.

The great discovery of the summer has been the Magic Tree House series. I think I saw these books mentioned briefly on someone's blog as a good introductory chapter book and BOY, was that person right. They are somehow perfectly designed to appeal to Grace at her current reading ability and developmental stage. She LOVES them. She has finished the entire first series since school let out and is well on her way to catching up to all the ones in the second series that are currently published before school starts again at the end of August. They aren't what one would call great literature but they aren't junk-y vacuous books either. (Ask me sometime about the Barbie book that Grace brought home once from the school library. ANGRY PARENTS.) I have taken to requesting about four at once from the library and depending on how busy our schedule is, she will finish all of them within 48 hours of us picking them up at the library.

So here I am, crowd-sourcing some suggestions for books for her to read. What else would be good for a newly-independent reader just taking her first steps into chapter books? The Magic Tree House series is about as far as I'm willing to go when it comes to lack of real literary merit. I'd prefer for her to read books of real value and beauty, but age-appropriate appeal is important too. I got some of the non-fiction "research guides" that the Magic Tree House people put out to go along with their books but she struggled to get through those and did not enjoy them at all; reading became WORK again. I know that eventually we all have to read things that are hard to get through but that is not what I'm looking for right now for Grace. I really want her to love Frog and Toad and Little Bear but much to my (hopefully well-hidden from Grace) disappointment they just haven't grabbed her in the way Magic Tree House has. I guess a related question to my main one above is how can I make Grace love Maurice Sendak?


Jill said...

How fun for Grace to have a summer of reading! I do love Little Bear and Frog and Toad. They're such sweet, simple stories. Maybe she'll come around. :)

Have you seen the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo? They seem to be just the right level for new readers (as far as I can tell since I don't have any readers myself yet!). We've also just discovered The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith of The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency fame.

We've read a few of the Magic Tree House books aloud to Henry, and so far he's loved them too. Some of the books have a few spiritual elements that I'm not ready to deal with (I'm mostly thinking of Mummies in the Morning), but I think in a year we'll be ready.

Laura said...

Oh, how fun! I can't wait for Lilly to discover reading, and I so hope that she loves it as much as her dad and I do. So many fun childhood favorites to share with her! I don't remember what I read at Grace's age, though... is she too old for Winnie the Pooh books? A A Milne is just so delightful. I also remember enjoying "The Phantom Tollbooth," although I think I was a little older, maybe 3rd or 4th grade? A sweet little book that I also loved was called "Merry, Rose, and Christmas-tree June" and I think that would be about Grace's reading level. Although probably not fine literature, the "In Grandma's Attic" series was very safe with lots of adventure but a Christian bent. Those may also be a few years out for her though. If you ever get some sort of book list together, I'd LOVE to see it! I really need to start a list for Lilly. My dad always read aloud to us each evening before bed (most notably, The Hobbit!) and I can't wait for Greg and I to do that with Lilly.

Carlie said...

The Little House books will be approachable soon. I also dearly love the first of The Boxcar Children...but only the first one.

Sharon said...

Anna really loved Little House on the Prairie and and Voyage of the Dawn Treader and Junie B. Jones, all on audio (I like the latter, since I was hoping some of Junie's spunk and independence would rub off on Anna. Not so much, thus far.) What about Pippi Longstocking? Can't remember if those have literary merit, but I enjoyed them when I was young. Anne of Green Gables, and associated kin, is also enjoyable, but those may be for an older audience. Right now we're also reading Magic Treehouse, and I'm thinking how lovely it will be once Anna can read on her own. Although, much like learning to walk, that may be a mixed blessing.

Becky at VintageMixer said...

That is such a cute photo!! You document your kids lives to well and so creatively!