Monday, July 31, 2006

Don't Read Just Anything

While in the pediatricatian's office this past week, I picked up a magazine in the rack which I've never seen before. Called Wondertime, it focuses on things parents can do to spark the love of learning in their newborn to 6 yo child. The issue I saw was Spring 2006, the premier issue. You can see what this publication is all about at

Don't Read Just Anything
by Daniel Pinkwater

Why you should be as choosy about what you read to your child as you are about what you feed your child.

Here's an experiement you can do at home. Some Saturday morning tune in to a random children's television show -- Astro-Rocket-Transformer-Kids, Space Gerbils, or whatever you happen upon. Sit comformtably. You may enjoy a snack or a beverage. While viewing, try to refrain from conditional thoughts. In other words, you may not think, "I find this appaling, but my kid might like it. " Do not think of the program as something for children--just watch it. Seek to enjoy it. Time yourself. Note how long it is before you a) become engaged in the program, b) drift into private thoughts, or c) get disgusted.

Unless you are very lucky, your answer will likely fall into the b or c category, as you probably expected. The simal state of much of children's TV has been well publicized. Now do the same experiement with some random picture books at the library or bookstore. You may be unhappily suprised. As one who writes and reviews children's books, I am sorry to tell you that half the storybooks published are juast as mind numbing as bad TV, only the pictures don't move. And yet, the truisim persists: Ready anything to your children, anything so long as you read to them. No, I say! Be picky. Life's too short to read bad books.

If you as a parent don't like a book, like it for yourself, like it because there is something there to like, then why in the world should your ch ildren like it? And if you and they are merely pretending to like it, its' laying the groundwork for mistrust and a distaste for reding in general.

If, on the other hand, Mommy cracks up laughing every time she comes to a certain part, if Daddy really likes the drawings, if lines from a story or aspects of a character become part of the family's everyday language, then you've got riches that will last generations. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Story of Ferdinand, Where the Wild Things Are--classics lilke these come to mind. You remember them, right? You're smiling, right? If you don't remember these or somehow missed them growing up, hunt them down--you will gladly read them more than once.

I said that half of children's books are a disgraceful waste of trees. The bright side is that half aren't! Here are a few more I like.

Six books you won't mind reading again and again and...


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
by Virginal Lee Buron (Houghton Mifflin, ages 3 and up)

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendack (Harper-Collins, ages 2 and up)

The Story of Ferdinand
by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson (Viking, ages 3 and up)


Rootbeer and Banana
by Sarah Sullivan, illustrated by Greg Shed (Candlewick Press,2005 , ages 3 and up)

Carmine: A Little More Red
by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin, 2005, ages 1 and up)

Bad Bears and a Bunny
by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater (Houghton-Mifflin, 2005, ages 3 and up)

Daniel Pinkwater has written about 100 books for children, many illustrated by him, and "the really good ones" illustrated by his wife, Jill Pinkwater. He reviews children's books on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon.

(I will come back and enter his reviews of the titles he listed...sorry on the run and will have to come back. I just wanted to get this post started asap! aa)