Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fostering a Love of Reading

Research shows that one of the biggest influences on children's reading success is their parents having read to them. This was always my favorite part of my kids' bedtime routine. Although they took turns getting to pick out the bedtime book, I had my favorites, too.

My favorite class in college was Children's Literature, famously nicknamed Kiddie Lit. Maybe it was because I had two very young children of my own by that time (yes, I graduated alpha-beta-baby ). But assignments that involved combing through books and evaluating them made it a dream class. I discovered authors who became favorites for my kids. And then there were other books that they demanded whose charm has forever been lost on me. Some of the books were requested by my sons when there own children were born because of their fond memories of the stories.

Mercer Mayer was one of my first discoveries. I loved the charming little monster critters he illustrated his books with. I can't begin to count how many of his books my children had but I certainly tried to get them all. My favorite was Professor Wormbog in Search of the Zipperumpazoo. The professor has every beast from A to Y but alas, no beast for Z. Because the zipperumpazoo had never been caught. My oldest son loved the picture where the bathtub is overflowing at the end and the disappointed professor falls asleep, dejected by his failure, while all the little zipperumpazoos dance around his house.

All of my kids loved The Monster at the End of This Book, starring Grover of Sesame Street. We had the oversized board book but I haven't been able to find a big one for the grandchildren. Grover doesn't realize he's a monster and he's so afraid of monsters that he goes to great lengths to not get to the end of the book. Finally, as the kids keep turning pages Grover discovers that 'he' is the monster at the end of the book. This was always a big favorite at bedtime.

Dogs. Big Dogs. Little Dogs. Black and white dogs. I think I'll be able to recite Dr. Seuss's Go, Dog, Go to the end of my days. No use describing the plot. There isn't one, other than dogs driving around in cars and ending up at a big dog party. But the children loved it. It's also in each of my grandson's libraries.

For whatever bizarre reason, my third oldest son was fond of Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? I will be forever convinced that that he merely liked to hear me run through the different sounds, including the dibble-dibble-dop-dop in the 'story'.

I've re-discovered my love for children's literature with the births of my grandsons. For a pre-birth gift I always present them with a good start to a library. There are some darling books out these days! And like their fathers, the grandsons have favorites.

Rylan likes the Bear stories by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. Bear and his forest friends star in several books, including Bear Stays Up for Christmas, Bear Feels Sick and Bear Wants More. The illustrations are gorgeous and the text is a treat for the reader, as well as the child. That's important when mom or gamma is reading at bedtime!

Kasen's favorites are the If You Give...books by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond. I'm trying to keep track of which ones he has, so I can complete the set for Christmas.
They all have the same pattern: If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to want a... Or if you give a pig a pancake, he's going to want a... The stories detail the animal's demands as they get more and more outlandish. There are several in the series now and each is as cute as the next.

Keaden's favorite these days is Llama, Llama, Mad at Mama.
Look at the expression on the baby llama's face! The illustrations are a hoot. The text rhymes, as baby llama goes to the shoparama with mama llama and gets progressively angrier when they stay too long. Anne Dewdney is the author, and there are a couple more books in the series. Of course, he's equally fond of the board book Moo, Baa and La-la-la. Which only goes to show that seventeen month olds don't require plots with their night time reading!

When the three youngest were in grades four and six, I read them the Judy Blume Fudge books, Twain's Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. And it was always a tradition in the house to read T'was the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve. The oldest ones would scoff when they were in high school. But I'd still find them lingering in the hallway outside the twins' bedroom while I was reading it.

These days we continue the tradition with the grandchildren. I can only hope that my love of books can be passed down through the generations.

Do you still recall your favorite books from your childhood? Do your kids/grandkids have new favorites? Which books did you 'graduate' to when you started reading on your own?


Terry Odell said...

I can't remember not reading, and the same for my kids. Bedtime required "Good Night Moon" for them. My son went through two copies of Richard Scarry's "Best Word Book Ever", so we had to buy a new one for our grandson.

I recall Pat the Bunny, Bears on Wheels, and Peter's Chair as being favorites of theirs.

I recall a tremendous library of those little "Golden Books" as a child.

I found transitioning my kids from picture books to storybooks went well with short stories -- Homer Price comes to mind for my son.

And my girls loved Beverly Cleary.

Candace said...

I don't have any kiddies or grandkiddies of my own but I have 18 nieces and nephews who (despite a late start) are finally beginning to produce grand nieces and nephews. My contribution at births and birthdays and Christmas and graduations has ALWAYS been books. "Goodnight Moon" and "Are You My Mother?" are two that all of the kids seem to love and remember.

And, now, I'm a mentor to a 10 year old girl. We're getting a late start, book wise, but I am so looking forward to all the wonderful books I can share with her. Any suggestions for a soccer player who loves science (if it blows up, she's there), black nail polish, Taylor Swift, the Twilight movies, and a leopard gecko named Fred?

Michele Hauf said...

Great post, Kylie! I still have my favorite childhood books. Among many Dr. Suess books (Yes, Mr. Brown can moo, can you?) my favs were If I Ran The Zoo and If I Ran The Circus. Sigh... Great memories.

GunDiva said...

I remember scores of the Little Golden Books! The Moster at the End of the Book was my brother's all-time favorite book - we had to read it to him over and over and over again. I didn't do much bedtime reading to my children when they were little, and I got lucky, because two of the three are voracious readers. The third reads, but it's not his first choice of entertainment. My kids always laugh when we go to back-to-school night and the teachers tell the parents that the most important behavior we as parents can model is reading. My kids always say they'd like to see my face on occasion, not the cover of the book my face is buried in!

On a different note - I had to giggle, because one of my blog commenters just told me that the name "Rylon" (mine's spelled a little different) was clumsy, but it obviously works for your family *g*.

Kylie said...

Oh Terry, I loved Beverly Cleary too. And Pat the Bunny...I think we went through a new copy with every child, LOL.

Kylie said...

Candace, I'm not as good with books for older kids. I always had my kids in book clubs. But Harriett the Spy comes to mind. Her sidekick was a scientist named Janie.

Kylie said...

Michele, those are favorites in my classroom library at school, too. The kids think they're really getting away with something if they read those because usually I make them read chapter books. But there are just as many pages in those stories! I also had a son who loved Dr. Seuss's short story, I can Lick Thirty Tigers Today.

I saved all my kids books for them to go to their own children. But after four siblings not all the books are in the greatest shape!

Kylie said...

GunDiva now you know that commenter is wrong, LOL! We know a few Rylan's around here.

With all the reading we did, all the book clubs my husband you to complain about, I don't have one kid out of five who is a voracious reader. They all *will*'s just not their first choice of entertainment. I'm still working on them, though!

Two of my daughter-in-laws devour my books as soon as they get them, which is sort of fun!

Cindy Gerard said...

"At the far end of town where the grikle grass grows and the wind smells sweet and sour when it blows and nobody speaks except for old crows is the street of the lifted Lorax.
"Who is the Lorax and why was he there and why was he lifted and taken somewhere????"

And I could go ON! Needless to say, Dr. Seuss was a favorite at our house when our son was little that to this day, I could practically recite it all word for word. And it's along book! We checked The Lorax out of the library so many times they had to get additional copies so someone else could read it. Of course, it finally became part of our home library - which I still have and often resort to when the grand kids are home.
I so love it that in this age of Nintendos, WII, Gameboys and the like, that bedtime story time still reigns supreme for our grandkids.

Very timely post, Kim. I have a birthday present to shop for for a 4 year old boy. any suggestions??

Pamela Keener said...

Thanks for the blog. I have no children but plenty of nieces & nephews. When it is birthday or Christmas I love, love, love to get lost in the childrens section of the bookstore. I love being in a bookstore period. I am going to check on some of your selections as future presents for all of them.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Kylie, I had horses named after Beverly Cleary characters in the book I just finished! Henry and Ribsy. Loved those books when I was a kid. Nancy Drew, too, of course. But I think I went from Nancy Drew to Leon Uris.

I remember reading "The Poky Little Puppy" to my little sister until I never wanted to see that book again. Or so I thought. I bought it for my kids. I bought it for my grandkids.

This weekend my grandson and I were walking Beauty. Grandson on his bike--he's 6 and will not part with those training wheels--was having trouble getting up a hill. I started reciting, "I think I can, I think I can." He said, "Hey, I have that book! The Little Engine." "That COULD," I said. "I gave you that book when you were a baby. Your daddy had it. Your uncle and your great-uncle had it."

catslady said...

I have to say I believe sometimes you are just born a certain way. I have two daughters - opposites. I read constantly when they were young. One loves reading and the other not so much. We use to go to the library and take out 30 books every week. And I have enough children's books to start a library lol.

Kylie said...

Cindy--any of the books I mentioned are fun. And the Jane Yolen books "How do Dinosaurs..." are also quite good. Four year olds. Well for our 3 and 4 year old grandsons, the batman outfits we got them at Toys R Us were big hits. They came with mask, cape and wings that expand, LOL. Also, our four year old grandson is into the Leapster, which is an electronic learning game that you buy cartridges for. The teacher in me loves to get them something that teaches them something!

Kylie said...

Pamela, I feel like a freak in the children's section, LOL but I'm sitting on the floor by the shelves reading the book before I decide whether to buy it. I have to enjoy the story...I figure if I don't find it interesting, they won't either.

Oh, and I almost hesitate to mention it--but the kids LOVE Walter the Farting Dog, by William Gotzwinkle There are a few books in the series and they are pretty entertaining!

Kylie said...

Kathleen, 'where in the world is the poky little puppy?' We recited that book over and over too. We made a little song out of that phrase and sang it at the bottom of the stairs when we were waiting for our sloooow second oldest!

I graduated to Beverly Cleary's young romances when I was in junior high. She really was a jewel!

Kylie said...

Catslady, I never had a kid of my own who didn't enjoy being read to. And when they were in elementary and middle school, where reading was really emphasized, they were all very into books. But once that emphasis was off in high school, not so much.

There are so many more distractions these days. The kids grew up with DVDs and game systems. Sports start with 3 and 4 year olds. It gets harder and harder to make time for that extra reading, especially if you have a kid who'd rather be doing something else.

Helen Brenna said...

Catslady - my kids are the same. I read to them both, possibly even my daughter more, but she's never been much of a reader on her own. My son, on the other hand, loves to read.

I think the first books he ever truly loved reading on his own were the Captain Underpants stories. Fun stuff for little boys.

Oh, my gosh, I have so many favorite kids books I don't know where to begin. A couple that haven't been mentioned by others -
Audry and Don Wood have some wonderful stories. Anyone ever read King Bidgood's in the Bathtub?

Jan Brett is another one - her illustrations have a Scandinavian flavor. Trouble with Trolls is a very cute xmas story. Trolls keeping taking things from this little girls house. She finally follows them, find all her things and in the end gives them an xmas present.

Anyone familiar with the I Spy books? Man, my kids and I would look at those photos forever trying to find everything on the lists!

Fun, fun memories!!

Kylie said...

Helen, thanks for the book ideas. I'll definitely have to check them out!

GunDiva said...

Oh, the Trixie Belden series - loved them! Still have a bunch. Tried to get my daughter to read them, but she wouldn't. Also, Walter Farley's Black Stallion series. I just told my mom last week that I wanted the whole series for Christmas. The copies I still have are falling apart.

My daughter jumped right over Beverly Cleary and right into "adult" romances.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Kylie, Poky has been reprinted by Little Golden books over and over again. You can still buy it new. I think.

Catslady, that baby sister I read to isn't a fiction reader. Like Mama, she proudly displays my books but hasn't read them. She reads non-fiction. That's one of those never-the-twain-shall-meet for some people, too.

But my kids are all readers. Why they've been so slow to finish college is frustratingly beyond me. (Not really. If you don't go straight through before you pile on the responsibilities, it can take time. And college isn't for everybody. Also frustratingly beyond me because I loved every minute.) But they're getting there.

Kylie said...

GunDiva-yes on Trixie Belden! I read each and every one of them. My sister was eight years older and she had the Donna Parker series, which was somewhat similar but more dated. Then I had three brothers so I read all the Hardy Boys along with my Nancy Drews!

Kylie said...

Kathleen, I do think I bought Poky for second son's oldest--my son was not amused!

Debra Dixon said...

>>The Monster at the End of This Book<<

LOVE this book. It's tattered and well-loved at my house, but my great nephew won't allow me to get another one.

One of my new favorites is SKIPPY JON JONES. What a riot. And SKIPPY JON JONES IN MUMMY TROUBLE. Maybe I'll post about them tomorrow.

Kylie said...

Oh, Deb, I bought two of those Skippy Jon Jones books for my oldest grandson last Christmas!

lunaticcafe said...

Reading has always been such a huge part of my house. When I was little my Gramma used to read this bible story book- it was yellow with red writing, but I can't recall the name anymore. Then she would read Disney stories. Do you remember the ones that had the tapes with them? I had those for years! I don't remember my mom reading with me but I know that she must have because I inherited my love of books from her. She always has a book, and now so do I.

Now that I have children of my own I try to encourage reading. When they were babies my hubby and I would read Goodnight Moon, I Love You As Much, Color Kittens, The B Book and Teddy Bear Dreams- at least those were the favs.

As they get older I try to encourage reading but that's easier said than done. Sometimes it seems like I am the only mom on the block that doesn't believe in kiddie cell phones and video games (we have the games but I have rules about playing). Both my kids enjoy Kate DiCamillo- her Mercy Watson series has been great for my daughter and her other characters (Tiger Rising, Despereaux, Edward Tulane) have been good for my son.

Boy, get me talking about books and I turn into Chatty Cathy:)

Laurie said...

I grew up with Nancy Drew, Heidi, Pollyanna, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Women and Dumbo.
my children loved EB White's books: Charlotte's Web, Louis, the Trumpter Swan and Stuart Little. They also enjoyed Laura Ingall Wilders Little House on the Praire series and Anne of Green Gables by LM. Montgomery. The Cricket in Times Square by George Seldon, all of Shel Silverstein's poems in Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree.
They loved CS Lewis' Narnia series and Tolkien's Hobbit and LOTR
Jan Brett, Lois Ehlert and Eric Carle are all beautifully illustrated!
Finally, Little Beaver & His Echo by Amy MacDonald.

Sendacow said...

I agree its important that children read sometimes i've found that reading should be given as an option to young children at school so that they can read our all time classics...This is the reason why: The Send a Cow Charity have introduced the 'Read to Feed' scheme to many UK Schools and this is a little a bit about it

1. Children choose books to read from the sendacow children's site and then invite a 'Send a Cow Ambassador' to come and speak about the charity's work.
2. Children are given bookmarks to encourage a sponsorship and continue reading
3. Continued reading will earn the children stickers for their bookmarks to show progress. Teacher's can get materials from a site dedicated to them called
4. Children collect their sponsorship money and match it to help what we give in africa using
5. Children send the money in and they will receive a thank you certificate and we send you one too.
6. The money gets to work straight away to help families grow enough to eat, have an income and protect their environment.*Just one book can start a whole chain of giving.... :)

Hope you can spread the word on behalf of me to possibly your children's schools. What do you think about this new avenue we are taking to change a family's future?

catslady said...

Oh my youngest enjoyed being read to pretty much but not when she has to do it herself. I blame her dad, they both have a very minor form of dsylexia and learning to read was hard for her. She's very artistic so I just think her brain is wired differently. Her sister is very verbal. I tend to be both lol.

Mary Anne Gruen said...

In honor of everything you all do I've given you The Lemonade Award over at my blog at