Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chapter books, great books, award-winning books, and letters

We've passed another milestone on the path to literacy. Last week, I began reading David a chapter book--Stuart Little. Previous most bedtime reading was stories that we could get through in a single sitting. The occasional exception might be when I simply did not have it in me to Bartholomew Cubbins start-to-finish for the 1,000th time and I would split it over two nights. But I came across our copy of Stuart Little while cleaning a couple of weeks ago and decided to give it a go.

It is a great choice for first chapter book. Each chapter is only five-or-six pages most of them have a plot arc within them. The language is for the most part direct and simple with just the right amount of advanced vocabulary. It is fairly entertaining for the child and the adult. David is eating it up. I am impressed with the amount of information he retains as well as his over-all interest in the book. Simon could not be more painfully bored. But he has his own milestone that I'll get to in a minute.

So onward and upward with the chapter books. If you have recommendations for a four-year-old, I would love to hear them. I assume when we get to the end of this one, David will want me to start it over again, so there is no rush. But we have reached the next step in his library building.

Speaking of reading, I have been thinking about Great Books for kids. I plan to focus the boy's education around a "Great Books" curriculum to the degree that I am able and want to get started. You know how you can get a quadrillion books of Bible stories for children? Well we would certainly love a high-quality volume of those. But I also want some stories of Great Literature for children. These are more difficult to come by, but they are out there--teh stories of writers like Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Melville, Dickens etc. as well as the standard classic stories for children. Also, I have found some selections of poetry, as well as children's versions of stories from the Arabian Nights. That last one demonstrates the difficult waters we get into here. I brought a children's telling of Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves home from the library forgetting that it is a story of gore, dismemberment (and rememberment), and boiling oil. I had to practically make up a new story and skip over certain pictures as I was reading it. Please do not feel obligated to find Titus for kids. But I want to get David started on as much of this as possible. I would like him to be familiar with the Great Books of Western Civilization starting with the stories contained therein. Frankly, it the only way I'll become familiar with them myself.

My second general recommendation is this article about Caldecott winners. By those for Christmas. Get some for David and Simon, too. The only Caldecott that I know we own is Where the Wild Things Are.

As for Simon's milestone--letters in the environment. When we are out and about, he has begun pointing out letters and numbers. Not by name, usually, but just as general fact; "letters daddy!" Signs on buildings, mostly. This is interesting to me because I don't recall David ever doing this. Simon seems generally more interested in letters than David ever has been. He is also more interested in coloring than David generally ever has been.