Wednesday, August 22, 2012

fall reading list, for the kids!

Summer is winding down and I don't think I could be more ecstatic! I'm ready to see this heat fade -bring on the cool temperatures, scarves, boots, and pumpkin everything! If you're a parent, an older sibling, or even friends of someone with kiddos you also know that school has started back in most areas and will in others soon enough. My little brothers and sisters, all six of the "little" ones that are still in school were mostly excited to go back and see their friends, the homework much less exciting.

I was pretty surprised to learn that one of my sisters, six-year-old Isabella, started back the school year with a problem - her reading skills seemed to have digressed during the summer. She was having trouble reading smaller words, prepositions mostly believe it or not. Bigger words weren't an issue and her spelling wasn't suffering, just reading basics. Only a two weeks back and she's already improved vastly and is back on track, but what caused the set back? After discussing with my mother we're fairly certain that her lack of interest in reading all summer played a major part in the issue.

Izzy B during a day at the park
I have loved reading since I learned how in early elementary school and never could get enough, so I'm a weirdo and it baffles me when children don't like reading. I've talked to Isabella a couple of times in recent weeks suggesting that she read for fun, books she might like, even if her teacher doesn't assign them. I told her that in the end she wouldn't have to do extra work if she read more often. She seems to agree with my idea, but she may just be telling her favorite big sister what she thinks she should!

I know Isabella isn't the only kid having these minor problems with the onset of a new school year and I really hope I can try and help my parents out next summer by encouraging the kids to read, even when school is out. Again, parent, sibling, family friend -I encourage you to do the same! Gift children a book as a birthday present, even if you get them a toy too. Make story time a part of your routine, especially if you're a parent, even if it is only a few times a week. If you're a reader, share some of your own favorites! Education is invaluable. I know not every kid is going to have three or four books stashed in their backpack at all times like I did, but short stories, easy chapter books, or even comics here and there aren't going to hurt and there is so much available everyone should be able to find something they like.

Now, on to the fun part of this post! Today I'm sharing some of my favorite books for various age groups, starting with pre-schoolers (although they'll probably be read to more so) and going through college. I've put them in the age group that I thought they would resonate best with. Some might be considered classics, others you may have never heard of, but they are some of my favorites that I've enjoyed throughout my life as a reader.

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell | I used to read this book to kids at the daycare I worked at in college. The illustrations are so unique in comparison to many children's books and always captured their attention. Getting little ones to pay attention to the pictures goes a long way when introducing reading.

The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss | This is one of my favorite rhyming books of all time. It was one of the first books I remember learning to read too! It's fun to read aloud and with so many beginner words, and word repetition, it's perfect for those just starting to learn basic reading skills.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak | I could fathom putting together a children's reading list and leaving one of my all time favorites off the list! I still remember the first time this was read to me when I was in pre-school. Max draws you in to his entertaining story, and the wild things are unique enough to interest even the most stubborn readers. I love that the major lesson in this book boils down to appreciating your family and friends. Kids may not fully comprehend it, maybe it won't resonate until later, but introducing valuable life lessons through reading is something I fully support.

Amelia Bedelia series by Peggy Parish | My grandmother had a collection of these books for when us grandkids visited. I loved reading everything and the adventures of the clumsy maid Amelia Bedelia was no exception. More than just silly stories, these book vastly improved my reading skills and they were some of the first books that made me think beyond the scope of the story. For example, how in the world was Amelia Bedelia still employed when she hardly ever managed to listen to her boss? I know I asked my grandmother that more than once!

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein | Poetry is another great tool to help with reading skills and even the first steps in reading analysis. Silverstein's poems generally tend to explore themes relevant to the children without have such a broad vocabulary that may confuse young readers. Some of the poems are realistic, others are silly, and some are an introduction to loving one another, a little bit for everyone. Looking back, I greatly appreciate a poet writing for children and having teachers that utilized the source, instead of trying to dissect much more advanced works.

The Giver by Lois Lowry | When I think about all of the serious issues that arise in this book I still can't believe I read it in fourth grade, so why is it appearing on my elementary list as well? Because while I'm surprised I read it at such a young age, looking back I realize that at the time it shocked me, in a good way. The initial surprise of this book, which honestly didn't set in fully until I was older, gave me an immense drive to read more and learn more. Meeting Lowry's character Jonas, seeing all of the things he sees and learning about the power of knowledge was exhilarating. Knowing that he lived life one way, and realizing that it was so much different, so restricted, from my own even made me grateful for the life I had. This will probably be a controversial book forever, but that doesn't make it bad and I definitely don't discourage against children reading it.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli | Even though this book is set in high school I think it's an even better read for awkward middle schoolers. The story focuses on a tenth grade girl named Susan Caraway, also known as Stargirl, who is not your average high schooler. Her classmates think she's weird because she doesn't conform-she dresses different, attends random funerals, plays her ukulele and sings to kids she doesn't know, and above all she couldn't care less what anyone else things about her. I love, love, love that she is putting the message out there that it is okay to be yourself regardless of what anyone else thinks. Children at any age should know to value individuality, their own and others.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien | One of my favorite classics! This is another book that has an obvious theme of personal growth, but it's disguised in a fantasy story about the quest of Bilbo Baggins, who has set out to win a share of a dragon's treasure. This book is relatively more popular among boys, but hey, girls can read adventure stories too! I actually read the Lord of the Rings trilogy (not until high school) first, but with a more advanced reading level starting with the prequel and working into it makes more sense for this age group. (Also, if you get your kid hooked on this series it's pretty long, so lots of quiet time around your house! Plus, the extended versions of the films are rough 4 hours each. Just sayin'.)

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz | I first have to say that I DO NOT recommend this for all children. Some kids scare easily, other do not like scary stories one bit, and others will not prepared for some of the more disturbing stories or images in this book. I wasn't one of those kids. I loved all things creepy and gory, and luckily my parents knew that I wasn't going to keep them up at night reading these books (Yep, books. This is part of a series.) If the stories aren't crazy enough, the illustrations can sometimes be a bit over the top themselves, again, not for everyone, sometimes I even got seriously irked and I loved them. My love of all things horror always won out over the creepiness. These books are great for kids with active imaginations, that enjoy scary stories and learning about folktales and urband legends. I imagine if you have a kid that loves to write on your hands, this may be fun for them to read and produce their own horror stories. If your kid has nightmares, completely ignore this selection.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger | I fell in love with this book in high school and it has always been a favorite. So many people say Holden Caulfield is a whiner, well, Holden is a teenage boy with a Peter Pan complex because he has trust issues with adults. The story is a great read for young adults, bottom line. You venture into the real world with him, see the interactions and influences affecting his life, and you really get inside his head and in those moments that you can really relate, it's incredible. For all of his problems, Holden is one of the greatest literary characters to date and I think he can really resonate with readers if encountered at the right time.

Looking For Alaska by John Green | This is actually a recent read for me, but I wish I had known about it when I was in high school. There are some parts of the book that deal with sex, drinking, and death, which some may regard as controversial, but the facts are that high schoolers know more about all of these things than most adults like to credit them with. Not to mention, those are not the focal points of the story. A few major things that I took away from this book is that there isn't an answer to everything, and that's okay. I really think presenting that to young people matters. Green also illustrates friendship to us in a way that some authors can only dream of. Miles, Alaska, and The Colonel are not cookie cutter kids from perfect backgrounds (well, Miles more so than anyone) but they all manage to develop an incredible friendship during an important time in their lives, and with the way that the book ends you're so enveloped in the characters you can only hope that it has bonded them strongly enough to get through the tragedy they endure.

The Cider House Rules by John Irving | Another book chalk full of adult themes that I'm deeming high school appropriate! By the time I was a freshmen in high school most things I read were exceeding a twelfth grade reading level and exploring much more mature themes than many of my classmates. This book was one of them. I did a freshman English project that took the entire year to complete centered around this novel, which surprised my teacher a bit. Books like this are eye-openers, that there is so much to the world around us outside of the walls of school, outside of our families, outside of everything we ever knew. Homer Wells grows up through the 1930's (as far as I can remember) in an orphanage run by a doctor who helps troubled mothers by either taking their children and raising them or by preforming abortions (secretly) at their request. Homer learns medicine, but has personal issue with the latter option and that is a big focal point of his story. Don't get me wrong, there is so much more going on, but overcoming society's standards and learning to live by your own morals and rules is a huge theme worth noting and I think something anyone, at any age, can take a lot away from it.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides | This book is not a bestseller or Pulitzer Prize winner for nothing. The novel focuses around Cal (formerly Callie) and the mutated gene that has made it's way through three generations of his Greek family resulting in Cal's birth as a hermaphrodite. Knowing that Cal was previously known by "Callie" it's not hard to guess that while he was raised as a girl, he felt as though he were more of a man the entire time and later in life opted to alter his appearance and life to reflect who he truly is. This story is beautiful and heartbreaking and as a reader I gained a lot of understanding and sympathy, not just for anyone who has experienced what it is to be intersexed, but people in general and the human condition. There just aren't enough words to discuss how touching and genuine this novel is.

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk | Once deemed "too disturbing" to be published, this is one of my favorite books of all time. The down fall of a fashion model in a horrific accident takes a turn when a transgendered Brandy Alexander (one operation away from being a real woman) comes to her rescue. The story is just as crazy as it is funny and while it may not be recognizable at the time, readers are getting a big lesson in how destructive fame and fortune can be, and how valuable your personal identity truly is. It's weird, and it's fantastic.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen | I saved this classic for the college reading list because I think that you really have to be a little older to comprehend everything that is happening in this book. Now, when we get down to it this book is about raising children to have morals and with the character to make them both decent, while still being individualized from everyone else in the world (I think most people just think it's a love story.) Elizabeth Bennett, our protagonist,  is the kind of young woman we should all want our daughters to be reading about and looking up to. She's fierce, passionate, and intelligent and it's refreshing to see a strong female character in such a classic novel, even if her judgmental nature gets her into a bit of trouble here and there. In this work Austen covers morality, education, manners, marriage and a slew of other topics while telling one of the greatest love stories of all time. (Also, if you're gong to watch a movie based on this book, please let it be the one with Keira Knightley. They finish Mr. Darcy's speech, as Austen did not complete it in the book, and it is perfection!)

Whew, I got a little long winded on some of those. If you managed to get this far, THANK YOU for reading! Also I ask, what are some of your favorite and most recommended reads?


  1. Great list! I just read Looking for Alaska recently too. John Green is such an incredible writer.

  2. I read Middlesex years ago and really enjoyed it too! Where The Wild Things Are is one of my favorite bedtime stories... my girls know the words and it's so cute to listen to!


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