Monday, October 26, 2009

More 'bout Books

I have two prior posts that deal with Children's Literature: The Story of Childhood and Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales (June Archive).

I did not decide to become a teacher until after college. This was in part due to the one Education Course I took at the college level: Children's Literature. It was an excellent class and the teacher was a legend in her field. I did well in the class. This had more to do with my love of story and the fact that our final exam included writing our own children's book, than with the fact that I mastered the course content. The main goal was to teach us to judge what was good children's literature.

I didn't get it. Good Night Moon? What? Why was this a classic? Even Madeline seemed more like an outline than actual story. Books I did love would be classified as appealing to adults, but not to children. Completion of the course left me feeling inadequate to the task. It also made me aware of the enormous responsibility one took on in teaching a child to read. I did not want such an awesome responsibility.

When I did decide to go back to school to get certified, I chose Secondary Social Studies. I wanted to stay as far away from teaching reading as I could. Fate has a sense of humor. My fourth and last paying job put me back in Middle School, where I had always loved being most, teaching Reading and Language Arts.

In this job, I had the opportunity to take a summer course at NYU on the Reading and Writing Workshop. Having taught for four years, I had more confidence and fell into a job that combined my favorite age with what had always in fact been my passions: books and writing.

I still think it is nearly impossible to teach a course on the assessment of Children's Literature in the classroom setting. To really do this well, you need children. It was not long after I had my own, that I got why Good Night Moon, Madeline and all the others were Classics. You only have to read Green Eggs and Ham or Are you my Mother once to a child to get it. And you will never actually be able to read it just once but will be required to read it again and again and again.

I am moving through the spectrum from Classic Picture books to Juvenille Literature along with my kids. I am learning through trial and error what appeals to children, what is readable and what is read over and over again. Because my older children are boys, I am more aware of what is appealing to boys at this stage. (Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales).

I have two new series to add to the list.

We grabbed a book on tape at our last Library visit: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. It was a huge success. We have listened to it three times since last week and my son read 100 pages of the second book in the series in one day. There are five books in this series. We can't wait to get through them all.

While purchasing the second of the Gregor series at our local book store, the saleswoman recommended a similar series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians By Rick Riordan. We are now listening to the first book, The Lightening Thief. Based on the Greek Gods, this is already proving to be a family favorite.

I love finding good books. I almost like finding things my children love as much as I love finding my own, often they are one in the same. While I am at it, I might as well throw in my new favorite book: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It is, in fact, marketed as a children's novel. It is set in Nazi Germany and told by the Grim Reaper. Its content is a bit too much for my current fourth grader, but it is a book I will love forever. I will for sure introduce it to him at a later stage.

Fall is a great time to read. A cozy fire on a dreary day, under a colored tree on a sunny day: It is sublime. All you need is the good book. If you are looking for some suggestions for your children, check out my other posts or find Gregor and Percy. You may find something they like. Chances are that you will have loved it too, or you will now. Some things, even children's literature, are better with age.

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