Recently I heard a great thought regarding the mark of a good book: ask a reader of good literature not what he or she is reading, but what he or she is re-reading. When I was a kid, I would save my allowance money to buy Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. This series was without doubt my childhood favorite. The books were $1.50 in paperback, and $3.00 for the thicker books, like The Long Winter, was a mint for me, but I bought it. 30 years later, I used these same books to read to my kids, and I found out what happens to a paperback after 30 years as the pages fell out of the book each time I turned the page. Reading these as an adult shocked me to see how racist these books are in parts, but I’ve used the opportunity to talk to the kids about how these ideas helped and hindered us from expanding westward as a truly united nation.
Having replaced my original set (they’re a lot more than $1.50 now!), I am re-reading them, now for the third time, to the youngest. The older ones are listening in from the next room as they complete their work, and I’m amazed at their insights, now hearing these books for the second time. If I can keep my mouth shut and quit trying to force them into what I think they should learn, it’s wonderful to see where their minds will go!
Some others we’ve re-read over the last few years:
I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly by Joyce Hansen *
Color Me Dark: the Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North by Patricia McKissack *
(* these two are easy readers for younger children from the Dear America series)
E. B. White’s Charlotte Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, and Stuart Little (the kids’ all-time favorites)
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
I look forward to expanding this list with some great works that we’ve bonded over together.