I once found Luca and Ziggy sitting in the lounge room 'reading' books they had procured from my bookshelf. One held The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the other held Schindler's Ark, upside down. It was one moment where I was glad for their non-genius tendencies as their chosen reading material on this day might have left them indelibly scarred.
We started reading to each of the kids when they were babies. They say this helps foster a love of books and that seems to be true given the hysterical wailing that daily ensues after the cover on the final book of the night has has been closed. We do love to read.
I definitely look forward to the time when the kids will raid our bookshelf for novels (storage being a precious commodity, I should give away books I know I will never read again but what if one of the kids wants to read it some day?) but for now, the civil rights movement and the Holocaust feel just a little dark for bedtime stories.
Finding appropriate reading material for kids is not the issue – there are a zillion books out there to choose from. But finding genuinely awesome stories is something else again. For instance, $3 board books at the discount store seem like a bargain until you're forced to read the painfully pedestrian text again and again and again. A good children's book is like a good animated film. It's made for kids but there is plenty in there for the adults to love. Of course, you have to start with the bored books that are little more than a picture of a ball accompanied by the word 'ball' – not page-turners, by any means, but not without their thrill (the moment your baby points to the picture and says, "bah!").
But eventually, kids reach an age where they will really sit and absorb a story. I am really enjoying this stage although the balance can be tricky because Luca is well and truly up to chapter books that require him to listen for extended periods of time without pictures to cue him in whereas Zig definitely responds better to short stories with contextual pictures. So whenever we happen upon a book that engages both boys equally (and that Bren and I like, too), it feels like we've won something.
Like I said, good books can be like needles in a haystack so when you find one, I think it's worth sharing. Here are a few of our favourites;
A Christmas present from Ziggy's lovely godmother, Aunty Tori, this gem has become an instant fave. We have several Oliver Jeffers books but this one is flat-out brilliant. And the back cover has a 'bite' taken out of it which causes no end of hilarity every time we get to the end of the story.
I bought this Little Golden Book when Luca was a baby and though it is very simple, both boys still love to read it. This may be because at the end of the book is a song which Daddy taught them to sing. Then Granma played the song on the piano and we discovered just how improvised Daddy's version was. He can play the bass like nobody's business but the guy never did learn how to read music. Hmmm. But back to I Can Fly, it really is the perfect book to start reading to your baby and I especially love the vintage illustrations.
Another simple and sweet story, Luca absolutely lurrrrved this book when he was a bub. I've started reading it to Harlow and it takes me right back. Written in sweet rhyme, Dimity Duck is one of those books you wouldn't necessarily expect to be anything special but that really is. Or maybe I'm just being sentimental….
Mum bought The Usborne Book of Poetry for Children for Luca's baptism. I thought it was a gorgeous idea in theory but that in practise, the kids would probably hate it. But recently, they've been choosing it a bit. It's a beautiful book and the poetry featured ranges from the absurdist The Emergensea to the whimsical The Magic Box – and both are favourites. I never really 'got' poetry so exploring language with the kids in this way is an education for me as well. And though they may not necessarily understand it (because who really ever understands poetry?), they respond to the way that poems can turn words upside down and inside out and everything inbetween.
Other notables include
– the Dinosaur Vs series – and really anything else by Bob Shea. He's fun.
– Olivia – the television show might drive you mad but this book is fabulous. But only the original. The other Olivia titles are….different.
– I Love You, Stinky Face – love, love, love, love, LOVE this book. And you, too, Stinky Face.
– Kokeshi: Aoki – absolutely the prettiest book for girls in the history of the world. I have it put away for Harlow. Full of lift flaps, die-cuts and gatefolds, this book is best suited to the kid who is old enough not to tear out all the fun pages! Super kawaii!
– Anything by Dr Seuss – You have to admit, he was a magician with words and his use of the made up and the absurd is perfect for little people who are busy developing their own language. Manipulating words for fun – what better way for kids to get involved? We've been reading The Lorax for several years now (well before Hollywood made it a movie) and it's a loooong story which is ultimately a conservation tale (Seuss was a greenie way before his time) and the mastery of the language means that the boys sit enthralled while listening – a feat many much shorter books can not accomplish.
Do you read every night? Care to share a fave?