Since my son was born a little over six years ago, I’ve taken a strong interest in books for children, not just baby books or books you read to kids, but the books he’ll be reading himself when he gets there.
As a child, I read voraciously. I read all the books I was interested in from our school library by the third grade and attacked the science fiction section of my county library shortly thereafter. My mother turned me on to The Hobbit when the Rankin Bass cartoon came on TV when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, and I checked out the novel the very next day. I moved on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy shortly thereafter, though it took some later re-readings to really tease the most out of those books.
But when I started checking out fiction for kids in 2003, I discovered that there are nearly more good books for kids these days that even a committed bookworm such as my myself could have read!
The Harry Potter books, of course, are often cited as the beginning of the kid lit explosion (and I’ve read and enjoyed those), and that series has spawned numerous knockoffs (some good, some dreadful), but there are librariesful of good kids books out there.
As The Boy gets closer to being able to digest books longer and more difficult than Sammy the Seal, I’m going to read more and more of these great new kids books (and some older ones that I loved as a kid) to help him get started as the same sort of life-long reader his mom and I are. I plan (though my track record’s not awesome) to blog at least quick recommendations (or warnings) about the ones I read.
Books that I read as a child made such an indelible impression on who I am today, and I want to him have that same sort of relationship with books, too.
So, I’ll start with three books that I’ve re-read in recent years that influenced me as a youngster.
I’ve written about A Heart To the Hawks by Don Moser here before, but I wanted to mention it again in this context because it’s such a good book and means so much to me.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is another nature-related book that has stuck with me. I’m sure I saw the Disney movie based on this book, but it’s the book itself that I remember the most. Every kid seems to harbor desires to run away from home, even if just for a little while. I spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid, and I always imagined myself as a kindred spirit of Sam Gribbley, even if I didn’t run away to the Catskills and survive an entire winter on my own.
Madeleine L’Engle’s popular children’s fantasy-science fiction classic A Wrinkle in Time inspired a life-long interest in science that — despite my lack of science degrees or ability to do complex equations — lives on today in my reading habits. The way it describes things like tesseracts and folding spacetime in a way that young children can understand and get excited about it just flat amazing.
I look forward to The Boy discovering wondrous things in books like these and others that he’ll discover as he embarks on his life as a reader.