Monday, August 6, 2012
A Good Book Is Hard to Find
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?