My son just turned four. I would guess that he will begin to read on his own during the next year. Don’t quote me on that, but his interest in words and letters gives me the sense that it is brewing in his brain. Yesterday he asked me to read him a birthday card and he wanted to follow along, finger under each word, as I read. Seeing his interest in reading, I want to introduce him to books that will really catch his interest and make him want to read. I find that the easiest way to verify a book’s quality is to have read it myself, usually as a kid.
I would never limit the books that my sons picks out at the library (well, there are titles that I convince him to pass over), but when I buy him books I find that I return again and again to the classics that I knew. Everyone knows these stories, but I’ll mention them anyway:
Clifford: nothing beats a good Clifford story. There are so many more than there were in the 1970s. Clifford talks now. And he has friends who talk. But, not to Emily Elizabeth, only to each other. The stories are timely – there is one for every traditional American holiday. They all have a good message – usually about the importance of friendship. Some even introduce topics that parents need to discuss with their children like fire safety. And they are easy to read in one sitting without losing a child’s attention.
Curious George: We got my son a gift pack of 12 Curious George stories for Christmas last year. Much to my dismay, none of these stories were written by H. A. Rey. They were written, so far as I can tell, by a computerized program where the key idea had to be that “George is a good little monkey, but always very curious.” Nonetheless, they appeal to my son immensely. Every little boy (and girl? I only have boys so I’m guessing here) gets in trouble for an innate curiosity. So they can relate to George. Often his antics seem innocent but the books do a good job of explaining why George’s choices were the wrong ones. And again, they are easy to get through in one sitting and he loves the pictures.
Berenstain Bears: We have just started reading these books. They are longer and have many more words than the other series. But, the messages in them are really good. Right now we’ve only read a book about “Best Friends” and another about “Trouble with Money.” The morals are obvious for an adult, but they are the kinds of issues that I know are on my son’s mind. Money is something he is just beginning to grapple with – a lot of questions about what it is, where we get it, why we go to the bank. And friends are also key for him. Who are his friends? When does he get to see his friends? How does he balance his wants and his friends’ needs? These don’t get read as often as they are longer. My four-year old likes them, but my younger son loses patience. But, I caught them looking at the covers on the back of the book and figuring out which ones they had already read and which ones they wanted to pick out next.