Soon after I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I got online to research children’s literature. What can I say? I was doing my PhD in Cultural Studies at the time and it seemed like a logical place to start. Now I have five kids and the research continues as they grow into new reading levels and interests. But it can be really frustrating: there’s simply so much choice, and how many times has a glowing review led me to an overly long, boring, and/or poorly-written book.
There’s an ocean of truly awful kids’ books out there, and it takes a lot of time to wade through it and find the pearls. This blog is about being selective. How selective? I’m glad you asked. Another children’s book blog, Planet Esme, posted a list of the best books of 2012; there were 73 fiction picture books on that list. I’ve read 68 of them and only recommended 5 of them here. My picture book recommendations are based on pretty simple and, I admit, extremely personal and subjective criteria: if my kid brings a book to me at story time and my shoulders sag in response, it won’t make the cut here. This blog will talk about the picture books that I think are worth investing in because my children and I both want to read them again and again, because if we’re both enjoying the book, we both get more out of the experience.
I’d love it if people (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles…) use this blog when birthdays and Christmases roll around. The more parents I talk to the more I hear about toy-fatigue: too many toys! The right books can be enjoyed for years, and they’re a lot easier to store than, say, a marble race track. Oh, and then there are the benefits of literacy, which I guess are kind of important too.
Anyone can compile a list of award winners and bestsellers, so that’s not the goal here. When it comes to chapter books, I will be relying more on my eldest children to help me decide what should make the cut: what books do they read more than once? What books do I have to wrestle out of their hands at the dining room table? What books make them laugh out loud? What books get finished in one or two sittings? What books do they want to read aloud to each other and to me? My education and research background have made me really careful about what kinds of books I get them, but of those books, they choose which they want to read when they feel like it, so I follow their lead in this regard. No doubt the older they get the more I’ll learn: right now I only have one boy and one girl who know how to read on their own. Some day soon I’ll have two boys and three girls plucking books off the shelves (and leaving them all over the house). I sincerely hope that people who read this blog will comment on the posts and make their own recommendations so that we can make it a hub for people who believe that books and reading should play a vital role in raising children, and who are keen to seek out the books that will help their kids learn about…well, everything. And love the learning.