Now that the best new children’s books this year are receiving awards and recognition, I’m excited and scanning the titles for my new favorites. Besides recognizing the best new books of the year, it’s gift giving time. Nothing beats reading-aloud and turning the pages of a book.
Yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that older books, titles that have been forgotten by many, are often the best of the best. I guarantee that most authors who write winning books today would smile, knowingly, and heartily agree.
I am fired up to share some of these books with you and their importance, because I recently read this ad which was marketing Goodnight Moon:
“Goodnight Moon is now available in e-book. The perfect solution for parents on the go.”
Pardon me while I pull my heart back up from my stomach. For the very young child, touching a book and turning the pages is essential.
I read-aloud the words to this book every single day in my classroom. Every day, just before chapter reading. Three and four-year-olds need to hear the words, not just see the illustrations. I simply read the words- and oh, how I read those words! A favorite is adding the names of the children, something like this:
“In the great green room there was a telephone, and Sarah’s red balloon, and a picture of Paulo jumping over the moon.”
Children wait to hear their name and then shriek with laughter! There is much to be said about this; the listening and focus is intense. Children are getting a big dose of language and rhyming words. Best of all, they have to make the pictures in their heads, a necessary skill for chapter reading. It is wonderful!
My own library of books at school is a treasure trove of new and old, from Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag written in the 1920’s to Mother Bruce by Ryan Higgins, written last year. A teacher’s budget allows for only the best. I have discovered that many teachers and parents are unaware of children’s books written in the past. For example, I used to assume that everybody knew The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg was a book– not just a movie! I also assumed the whole world had read The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (one of the best books to teach history). Not true! So, now I make it a point to include them and a host of older picture books in my read-aloud. These books are so good; rich in story-line and words and illustrations.
My mission is to keep great books alive! Last week I pulled out an old book, Ox Cart Man, by Donald Hall.
This classic story follows the life of a New England farmer and his family throughout the course of a year. The illustrations, perfect for this book, are beautifully done by Barbara Cooney. Even I was surprised when I opened the book and was reminded of this:
Here are a few books (beyond what I have mentioned) that have “been around the block”, lived up to the test of time, and are loved over the years by children. They are in no particular order. I read these books again and again:
The Story of Little Babaji, by Helen Bannerman
Doctor De Soto, by William Steig
Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg
The Seven Silly Eaters, by Mary Ann Hoberman
Library Lion, by Michelle Knudsen
Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey
Captain Cat, by Inga Moore
Apple Tree Christmas, by Trinka Hakes Noble
Circus, by Peter Spier
Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell
Clay Boy, by Mirra Ginsburg
Of course this barely scratches the surface. There are fairy tales, wordless books… more to follow!