Friday, September 21, 2012

Be Excellent! (Loving books, part 2)

I feel like I've learned a lot about how to encourage my kids to love books, especially great books, and I wanted to take a few posts to share some of my thoughts. Any time you delve into parental advice-giving it has the potential to be a nasty can of worms. So, I hope the book recommendations and thoughts on encouraging a love a reading are helpful. I'm not trying to make out like my way of doing this will work for everyone.

Not all books are great, and I strongly believe that there are too many excellent books out there to waste time re-reading lousy ones. We refer to these mediocre books as “twaddle.” 

Twaddle is a term often used to describe books that are dumbed down, especially for children. (For more great information about twaddle, check out this post on Simple Charlotte Mason.) These kinds of books lack strong characters, a meaningful storyline, and often even good writing – you know, the ones with no author and based on a TV show. J 

But a great book stands out above others because it creates feelings in you, even as an adult reading a children’s story.  A great book makes you want to read more great books.

Many times children will ask to re-read a book just because it is about a popular character.  The content of the book is insignificant to them because they like the character. When we surround our kids with twaddle-free books, the simplistic books with weak plots and cartoon characters will naturally end up less appealing.

Great books – especially great children’s books – should be able to be read over and over again.  Repetition is great for children, so be picky and choose books that are excellent to read multiple times. I am a firm believer that it is ok to say ‘no’ to bad books, as long as you are able to offer a better alternative! We always end up with a few “busts” in our bag of library books that looked better than they were.  But I’ve found that these times present a great opportunity for me to talk with my kids about the difference between twaddle and excellence.

Now that we've been doing this for a while, we often chat a little after reading a new book. It's usually a simple "I liked that book, it was great!" or "well, that was a little lame/boring/ect." It cracks me up to hear my kids commenting like this. When we finished a 5th or 6th re-read of The Rainbow Fish my son piped up, "I like that book!" And my daughter likes to grab a "bust" from our library basket and explain to guests that "this book was twaddle so we're probably not going to read it again." They really learn so much from us!

Favorite (non-Thomas) Train Books:
In order from simplest to more challenging, all picture books.
Freight Train
  Few words and minimalist illustrations, which captured my children's attention instantly. I added some sound effects and changed speeds of my reading in this one.
Two Little Trains

  The two trains are doing the same things, but one is a real train and one is a toy. Superb.
My Little Train
  My son has been quoting this one a lot lately. Animals ride the train around and over furniture.
I'm Taking a Trip on My Train
  All of Neitzel's books have building repetition that is great for kids, but sometimes gets old for reading. Her endings make each book.
I'm Fast!
  A car and train race across the country. What's not to love?
C Is for Caboose: Riding the Rails from A to Z
  For the train lover, lots of technical terms to correspond to each letter of the alphabet. 


Part 1: Readers Are Made


  1. Great post! I agree! I am loving introducing great books to my kids and building our library! And have favorite characters like Curious George and Madeline and of course Jack and Annie from MTH!!! Five in A Row is a great curriculum to do with kids! It introduced me to many wonderful children's books, many classics, that I may have not known to read! I added so many great books with great plots, characters, and ones that offer great opportunities for teaching moral lessons.

  2. I love hot posts! You are one insightful Mom!

  3. Some of our other favorite train books are The Little Engine that Could (the original and newer version with updated, beautiful artwork, The Little Red Caboose, and Tootle. Thanks for the titles you mentioned. excited to look at the one by the author of Goodnight Moon.


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