In one fell swoop reading great books enhances our children’s relational, academic, social, emotional, and creative intelligences. A story can take us to the end of our own experiences and beyond; into worlds of imagination where we’d never dreamed of going on our own. For thirteen years I’ve been sharing my love of stories with my own daughters in hopes they continue to grow into lifelong readers.
I realized the power of a well-told story when I was nine years old. It was fourth grade and I fell head-over-heels in love…with books. As a younger kid I spent countless weekends (understatement) in libraries and books stores where my dad worked, surrounded by books I wasn’t interested in reading. Books were for school and reading was for kids who didn’t play outside. It’s not that I lacked the ability to read well, I just lacked the motivation. Finishing a chapter book felt like a impossible chore until I realized what I was missing.
My first literary love was Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars followed closely by Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series, and followed up with a long, loyal relationship with The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin. Each in their own way, these books opened up worlds and emotions I didn’t realize my nine year old heart contained…courage, loyalty, justice, empathy, jealousy…I remember walking up and down the aisle of our school library walls wondering, how do they expect me to just pick one book? Don’t they know there are stories waiting to be read here? Worlds were opening up to me and I couldn’t read fast enough.
I still feel that way in libraries and my kids totally take advantage of my weakness. We walk out with more books than we can carry on most trips. Why choose one great book when there are three waiting on the shelf begging to be read? …$20 in late fees later…grace abounds. I support my local library with late fees. Yes, I know books are renewable. Yes, I know there’s a drive-thru book drop. Yes, I know there’s an app for that. If libraries had platinum cards, I’d be a proud owner.
What was your first book love?
If you grew up reading I know you have at least one, if not a list, of books you fell in love with and dreamed of long after the final page. Here are a few of our family’s favorites and we’re always looking for more to add to our list. I purposely tried to include lesser-known books on this list because I’m guessing we have many classic favorites in common already. Since most of my reading has been for myself and/or my daughters, the list is somewhat female-centric. Check out the title below and let me know what you think! Happy Reading!
The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola
Peek-a-Boo by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty
The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
and illustrated by Marla Frazee
The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
The Library by Sarah Stewart
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Are You a Horse? by Andy Rash
The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen
Early Chapter or Chapter Books
Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen (don’t forget the spin off of Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by the same authors)
Any of Cynthia Rylant’s books (Henry and Mudge, Poppleton, Cobble Street Cousins to name a few of the many)
Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace
Any of Eleanor Estes’ books (The Moffats, The Alley, Ginger Pye, 100 Dresses)
The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
The Lemonade War by Jaqueline Davies
The Key & the Flame by Claire M. Caterer
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass (all the books in this series were a hit)
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
The Half Magic by Annie Barrows (she also writes great adult fiction)
The Phantom Tolbooth by Norton Juster
Half Upon a Time by James Riley
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
What are your family’s favorite books? Do you have memories of your first book love too? Any book recommendations for our almost teenager daughter?