This summer I immersed myself in great children’s books and quite a few young adult (YA) books that I’d never read, for a host of reasons. So many wonderful books for older children were written when my children were very little. At that time I was reading all the picture books I could get my hands on. That started my passion for reading aloud good books, and yes, I became quite picky. I knew the ‘good ones’.
A decade slipped by as I read furiously not only with my own children, but in my classroom. I was building my library. I was also building my greatest strength. Then I began chapter reading. To this day I can tell you where every family member was sitting in the den as I read aloud Little House in the Big Woods. That was the turning point when I knew I could (and should) read good chapter books to preschoolers. And I did.
This was way out of the box for preschoolers, yet I knew I could stretch those minds by painting pictures with words, reading with excitement, and always stopping to ask questions. Oh, did it ever work! I still wonder why teachers hesitate to chapter read to preschoolers. My chapter book reading aloud became strong and successful for children. When Jim Trelease visited my classroom and included me in the latest edition of his million copy best seller book, The Read Aloud Handbook, I knew I was doing the right thing and doing it well.
So, this summer I set aside adult reading and dove into great older children’s and YA books. It was the best summer of reading! Here is the list of books I read:
Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks. (A boy is faced with caring for and protecting someone that is both alive and miniature. LOVED this book. I’m reading it at the library.)
Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo. (Dog lovers and people lovers, this book is about the courage of meeting many different people, and the open heart of a young girl. This dog is the center of all that happens.)
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. (This book is my MUST read for everyone. A great kid, and ‘his story’. He looks different, and he transitions into school. His positive attitude and also the perspective of people around him are part of the story.)
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle (This book must have influenced J.K. Rowling. A girl helps to find her father, with the help of some ‘spirits’ and her brother and friend. I think Mrs. Whatsit is my favorite character.)
The Witches of Worm, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. (A spy adventure, along with a girl who is independent and finds a cat.)
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. (Children run away and hide in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They learn how to ‘survive’, and they discover amazing parts of the museum, like the angel statue. That ignites a contact with the woman who originally had the statue. The development of the characters in the museum is superb.)
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry. (I am deeply moved by Annemarie. She is not Jewish and neither am I, yet we both have dear childhood Jewish friends. We both went to Temple and visited when our friends celebrated Jewish holidays. Annemarie’s story is from Denmark in WWII.)
I plunged into every book. I was a character in each book; protecting an Indian, traveling in time, defending, supporting dogs and cats, making magic, exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art, being a Jew in Denmark, and championing a great kid who sees the world in a wonderful way. Many books are Newbery winners (no surprise). I can’t say enough good things about each book.
I think my summer of reading barely touched the surface of the great older children’s books I had not read. YA books are just good as the normal fare. Yes, I have read many, but not enough. I’m on a roll! It is never too late to read the books you have always heard about or wanted to read. Pleasure reading is as good as it gets.