A friend on Facebook asked me what we’ve done with the Kid so far. It’s an interesting question, but I think I’m going to have to answer it in parts:
I don’t know if I’ll do them in sequence, or when I’ll get to them all, but I’m setting the goal to let you know what the Kid’s diet has been until now in these five areas.
My husband is an English Teacher, which should be enough to tell you that books are very important to us and to our parenting. We got tons of books as baby gifts and made sure to exchange the duplicates in order to expand the Kid’s baby library as far as we could. I have a degree in Elementary Education, so I know a thing or two about children’s literature generally, too, and I had books left over from my teaching days that were stored on the Kid’s bookshelf from day 1, in anticipation of the day she would want to read them.
You could say that I’m a children’s book nerd, but that feels like a cop-out. However, if “being a nerd is not about what you love, it’s about how you love it,” as Wil Wheaton says, then it was definitely important to us that the Kid become some kind of book nerd. It didn’t really matter to us what the Kid loved to read, as long as she loved to read. And she loved books from the beginning. But I’m going to focus on why the Kid loves fantasy books in particular, to see if I can trace it back to its origins.
Fantasy/Magical books we’ve read aloud (and Kid’s approximate age at the time)
Where the Wild Things Are (always)
The Wizard of Oz series (4-5)
The Mary Poppins series (5)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (5)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (6)
James and the Giant Peach (6)
The Chronicles of Narnia (6)
A Wrinkle in Time (8)
The Hobbit (8)
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (10) (Kid actually read this first, then asked me to read it to her)
Fantasy/Magical books Kid has read on her own (with ages, if I know)
The Harry Potter series (began at 7, still reads them)
The Tale of Despereaux (7)
The Magic Treehouse series (6-9)
Ella Enchanted (8)
The Spiderwick Chronicles (8)
The Clockwork 3 (9)
The Percy Jackson series (9- ) (These books are still being written.)
The Kane Chronicles (9)
The Alchemist (10)
The Ology Books are a special favorite
I’m realizing that this is an impossible list to finish. Suffice it to say that Fantasy books have always been a part of our repertoire. The important thing is that we value her interest in Fantasy books and help her find more that she might like. We get ideas from our own reading, from friends and relatives, from the internet, and from librarians, teachers and book store clerks. She sees us reading all the time, and when she recommends a book, I usually pick it up. I became a huge Percy Jackson fan at her suggestion, I loved the Fablehaven books, and as I said, we’re reading aloud the League of Princes books together.
I think the important thing with books, as with most of parenting, is to listen to what your child likes, to discuss books, and to sometimes follow her lead. I don’t always read books the Kid suggests to me, and I read a lot of other books from various genres, but I think she feels valued as a reader when I do pick up something she recommended. It helps us bond, too. We have something to talk about other than whether she cleaned her room, and a new source of references that help us communicate. Recently, we went to the American Museum of Natural History and when we were in the butterfly exhibit, I thought of the Fablehaven books. Since we have both read them, I asked the Kid if she thought the butterflies were really fairies, and we just couldn’t tell because we hadn’t had our magic milk that day. She smiled and said she ways sure that was the case.
Whether it’s bonding over a little joke like that or designing a great Harry Potter birthday party, having books in common is a great thing for a family. Books become part of your common references, and the love of books is something you can always share.