Reading to kids


Entering my third wave of reading to kids — first as a kindergarten teacher, then as a parent, now as a grandparent — I have firm opinions about children’s literature.

When I choose a book to read to kids, the main criterion is this: it must be engaging to me. Because I know I will be reading it over and over and over for weeks and generations. And kids can tell if you are faking it.

Here are a few examples of books that don’t reach that bar:

[Disclaimer: I apologize in advance to the authors. All of you are wildly successful and more talented than I ever hope to be. I have also purchased copies of all these titles, so you got your royalties out of me.]

1) “Goodnight Moon”

When we had our first child, this book was recommended by every mother, including our pediatrician. So it was the first book we bought.

I don’t think I’ve ever finished it.

Every page in the book is basically the same picture of a bedroom with a kid saying goodnight to everything. Moon, mittens, mush. A weird old lady whispering “hush,” knitting in the rocking chair. It feels like a crime scene about to happen.

I will say it put me to sleep.

2) “Dinotopia”

The premise is that “shipwrecked humans and sentient dinosaurs have learned to coexist peacefully as a single symbiotic society.”

I’m sorry. It not only offends the science teacher in me knowing humans and dinosaurs did not “coexist,” but we learned in ninth grade history that utopias — like perpetual motion machines — are seductive ideas that never ever in the history of mankind have been successfully implemented.

I read it once and banished it to the highest shelf in the house. The only reason I didn’t burn it was because it was a gift and a high quality print. In the spirit of its premise, I donated it to the library book sale.

I hope whoever bought it for 50 cents appreciated that it was “unused.”

3) “Dr. Suess”

I know I’ll lose some of you on this one. I’ve always loved Dr. Suess, but the books seem so tedious now.


For more on this story, read this week’s print and online editions of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. If you are a print subscriber, your full online subscription is free. All you need to do is call 830-997-2155 to get a password. If you are not a subscriber, call 997-2155 or click on the ‘Subscribe’ button on the left side of the home page and sign up today!