When my son Seth was about three years old, we went to the library together at least once a week. We would see friends there with their kids, checking out two or three books—so reasonable and moderate. I told myself, I’m not going to break my library bag this week; we’re only going to get a few books. And yet every time, we left with the bag full to the top, mostly of storybooks and occasionally some nonfiction books. Seth loved whatever we got, as long as someone was willing to read it to him, and I loved picking the books out for him.
Around the same time, I began teaching a children’s literature class at a local university. Every week before class, I made a big trip to the library to collect books that I wanted to share with the students, based on the genres (types of books) we were studying that week. I knew a lot of titles and authors from my years as a middle school reading teacher and from my own childhood. But some genres were not my “go-to” areas in the children’s library: folklore, science fiction, memoir, historical fiction, graphic novels.
The class made me dive into these genres and others. I scoured the shelves looking for authors I recognized, attractive illustrations, cultural variations. I loved it, Seth loved it. It spiced up our reading and exposed him to books he might not otherwise have known, some that have become favorites, like Steven Kellogg’s folklore books The Three Sillies and Pecos Bill, and the Let’s Read and Find Out nonfiction series by different authors.
Now every time I prepare to teach children’s literature, I get excited all over again because I know I’ll have to dig deep in each genre. I’m still learning, still discovering, and I know I’ll find new books that will excite my children—Seth is seven now, and our daughter Madeline is three. Here they are reading together this summer.
I’d like to invite you—teachers, parents, grandparents or anyone who is interested—to join me in a challenge to spice up our reading time with our children (or students) by diving into these different genres together. Twice a month, I will post a challenge here, aimed at getting you into a genre you haven’t explored with your children (or if you have, go deeper and look for some different texts). I will post some recommendations to go along with each challenge, for those who might need it, but I also know you’ll start to recognize names of authors you like and styles of books your children enjoy.
I am passionate about helping all children find books they enjoy, books they can and want to read. Based on my experiences as a teacher, I have a lot of deep-seated beliefs about the ways to help our children develop a love of reading and learning, so chances are good that I will post additional thoughts from time to time about how we can best facilitate and encourage these things in our children.
Ready to take this fun challenge? Here’s what you need to know:
1) You’ll probably want to take a trip to your public library every couple weeks, to find books in the genres we discuss.
2) Sign up to get email notification when I post on here, if you’d like.
3) Commit to setting aside time each day to read TO and/or with your child. Even if they are already readers themselves, there are so many benefits to them listening to you read aloud TO them. (More on this another time!)
I hope you’ll join me. It’s going to be lots of fun!