Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Books for Children

Since school is about to start again for another year, and Athena's first year, I have been thinking a lot about books...and reading...and language skills. I am taken aback by the lack of quality books out there for little ones these days.

I recall purchasing some books from Scholastic through her pre-school program last year, only to end up tossing them out. Those David books by David Shannon come to mind. What a bunch of... well, I won't say here. Just recently I started to read one of four Junie B Jones books to Athena. Again, garbage. The grammar is horrible. I know they are trying to speak as a little kid would but how can one learn proper English if what they read is incorrect? Rubbish.

The books that Athena has been drawn to are old books. Published way back when. Long before public schools decided to go with Whole Language and drop phonics. Long before schools decided that perhaps we don't need so many English classes after all. I read somewhere, and I can't recall exactly where, possibly Dr. John Rosemond's column, that one school system in the United States has decided that no child will learn computer skills until they can read. How great would that be?

Some of Athena's favorites are the Billy and Blaze series by C W Anderson. Great books about a boy and his horse and the adventures they get into. She also loves Blueberries for Sal and One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey. Again, old books. But I must say that her favorite book is The Children's Hour First Story Book. I picked up this book at a used book sale for $1. Each story has been read over and over again. The volume is a collection of some of the best Children's Literature available. It was published in 1963. The stories are good good stories. There are old fashioned values scattered throughout the pages. They are engaging and exciting. Excellent stuff.

Just the other day I was reading the Word to Parents at the front of the book. I must quote a very insightful part for you.

"Children, when given a fair chance, choose the best. This is a well established fact among educators today. Young children, exposed to both good reading and shoddy reading, really prefer the good. It must be readily available, of course, and it must ring true, be simply told, and be of genuine interest to them."

And further down it says, "The Children's Hour thus covers a wide range of boy and girl interests. Its readers will find fun and information and inspiration in imaginative folk and fairy tales, in heroic myths and legends, and in courageous tales of pioneers and days of long ago."

And lastly "Thoughtful parents realize the importance of surrounding their children with good literature and good art. They know their lasting values. They know the ideas and ideals children gain from them enrich their lives. They know that great literature and great art will expand a child's horizon, will open windows to a world of beauty, of ideas, of adventure, and of high achievement.. It is the hope of the editor that The Children's Hour will do just that and will lift its readers far above the average in character, intelligence and culture, as well as give them, during their impressionable years, one of the greatest joys in life- the love of reading when they are young."
Enough said.
So, do you think kids should read whatever they want, as long as they read? Or do you think otherwise?


Kaivalya said...

This post by Laurie may interest you:

In it, she lists her top 10 books from childhood. Many of my favourites are also on that list. I especially recommend the Misty books, really anything by Marguerite Henry. I may put together my own list - I'll let you know if I do.

I don't have children, but I've read a few current children's books and found them horrible. A few years ago, I found a copy of "Oh, Brother", a 'Lizzie McGuire Book' on the subway. It was a library book and I read it before I returned it. It was painfully bad and made me wonder if today's children are not capable of sophisticated, well-written stories.

I don't believe that's true, but we have to provide kids with quality books if they're going to continue reading into adulthood.

Dawn said...

Thank you for the book recommendations. I'm on the same page as you here. I gave up on those mail order book clubs and Scholastic because it seemed that all they offered was rubbish.
My approach with my daughter is to give her quality, assigned reading for at least a half hour each day. If she chooses to pick up "fluff" from the library to read, it's read in addition to what I give her.