Thursday, November 12, 2009

Buying Furniture for Children's Minds

As I read the twenty or so children's books we have here in Padova, I am struck by the importance they have in the education of my children. At two and half, Dominic can already memorize large portions of stories. Every night he recites the story of Baby Moses/Adult Moses while we flip the pages in his little Toddler Bible. He anticipates the action and can name everything in the pictures. He understands humor and likes rhyme. I am often surprised by the books that become his favorites. They often seem more complicated than I think he should be able to enjoy. Currently, The Saggy Baggy Elephant is at the top of his list.

Stories teach children right and wrong. They should make them love good heroes and despise villains, praising virtue and condemning vice. It is moral training on the most basic level. Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with reading a-moral stories. Silly Stories with Bert and Ernie is just that, silly. It may not develop their noble sensibilities, but it does foster a love of reading. I tend to think that this "lighter" reading is just fine, so long as the greater portion of their literature is more substantive. I certainly have a long way to go before having any sort of comprehensive view of children's lit. Thankfully, my future contains thousands more readings of children's books during which I will have the time to ponder these questions (at least between the kids questions of "Mommy, can you count them?" "What's that?" "What's he eating that for?" etc).

Anyway, I was wondering, what are everyone's favorite books from their childhood? Which books are so important or wonderful that you think my children will be deprived if they do not read them?


  1. The Book of Virtues was always my favorite growing up. We read it every night after dinner.

  2. The Little Red Hen, Single volume of Fairy Tales and Nursery Rhymes, and the assorted stories of Dr. Seuss. This is my first try at a comment!

  3. Here's my comprehensive list from a trained Children's Books professional! :)

  4. My 2 favorites from a very very young age were:
    But No Elephants! by Jerry Smath
    and (I think it was called) The Children's Golden Book of Poetry (I can double check that when Nicolette is awake). It had all the classic children's poems, and cute illustrations. I loved it so much that it's in pieces. I still have it though.

    Poetry was great to have read to me as a little kid. I remember saying the poems along with my mom, and loving the sounds of the words.

    But No Elephants! was just a great imaginitive book. Lots of animals. Grandma Tildy adopts one at a time from the pet man, and each pet learns to use his own strengths to contribute to the good of the family.

  5. Hey! Love hearing about your adventures in Italy, and I TOTALLY understand that overwhelming feeling as you step inside St. Peter's - so awesome (to steal from Dominic :). So glad your parents got to visit, too. We have been thinking of you guys lately and praying all is going well. I don't know HOW you do it being home alone and away from Matt for almost 12 hours a day! I'd die (not in being away from Matt, haha, but I can't wait for TJ to get home at 4, never mind 6:30!). We are set to head up to Charlotte for Thanksgiving - all the Nielsens will be in town and so will my siblings - fiesta!
    As far as books - to the subject at hand - I loved "Goodnight Moon", the book about Maryanne the backhoe (title escapes me now), and all of the Bearenstein Bears (sp?) series - fun stories.
    Hello's to Matt!
    Love, Alycia

  6. Shel Silverstein and Dr. Suess. Life lessons hidden in silly sounds and rhymes!

  7. But No Elephants! was a favorite of mine, as well. You can't leave out "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" or something like that.

    Can't go wrong with classic Winne the Pooh, either.

  8. Thanks all for your input! I plan on adding lots of these to our wish lists. I found this website some time ago with even more suggestions, by age:

  9. Amy,

    Have you checked out Maggie's blog devoted slowly to children's books?

    She's got lots of good suggestions! Wishing I could find and send you some doggies...!