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.
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.
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