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In the Good Old Summer Time, Try Some Good Old Classics

In the Good Old Summer Time, Try Some Good Old Classics

Kate Marley
This spring, a teenage boy came to the library, and asked me for a book about change. He had a reading assignment for English class to read a fiction book where the characters change. Well, that wasn’t hard, for in nearly every good story the characters are changed by either the adverse circumstances, people or tribulations encountered. But he was foreign born, so English was his second language, and he needed something good that wasn’t too long. So I gave him Call of the Wild by Jack London, a great adventure story that he had never read. He came back about two weeks later…his eyes lit up when he told me (with just a hint of surprise) that it had been a really wonderful book. So what had promised to be a boring English assignment turned out to be an unexpected pleasure for this young man. Your kids could have this same kind of unexpected pleasure….if you give them some classics. Now classic doesn’t have to be a dirty word or onerous duty – don’t let your kids whine their way out of their literary meat and potatoes. And the best way to convince them that classics are worthwhile is for you – yes, YOU! to read them out loud, and yes, YES, even to the older kids. Because with teens, you can have some of the most interesting discussions, prompted by books. We’ve talked about the limits of government to infringe on individual rights for the “good of society” (The Giver by Lowry). How does the control of money affect family relationships? (Sense and Sensibility by Austen). The unsung courage of ordinary people (Little House in the Big Woods by Wilder). The possibilites are unlimited. Try reading to them at different times than bedtime (although was always a favorite). Forget those headphones and read in the car. Read to the older ones when the little ones are napping. Read during the swimming breaks at the pool. You get the idea. It’s also important to remember that one can read older books to younger kids – my kids enjoyed hearing the Ramona books before they could read them, and particularly for the older classics that so many kids are too impatient to read themselves – having someone else reading (and explaining) makes a world of difference! And of course, there are lists by the hundreds…the two most accessable being the Caldecott Award for picture books and the Newbery Awards for children’s novels, which can be picked up in any school or public library. There are entire books listing books! The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (now available in a fourth edition) , Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children by William Russell, New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children by Eden Ross Lipson, and Read to Me by Bernice Cullinan are just a few of these books, and can be found, again, in nearly any public library. Many larger public libraries also have websites, again with lists and recommendations. Try Baltimore’s own:
Many organizations and book lovers have posted lists also:
Lots of writers have their own websites also, and a simple search on any decentfor example: But most of all, read them something you love. Most of the time, your passion and attachment for certain stories will transmit itself to the next generation. While we never could convince them of the worthiness of Captains Courageous, my kids do enjoy many, many others such as the Just So Stories, The Hobbit, and Goodnight Moon.

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