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Passing It On - My Favorite Books From Childhood

From the moment I felt my oldest daughter quickening in my belly, I was already making plans and stockpiling favorite books and CDs to share with my kids. I had lofty notions about avoiding all televsion and movies until, say, college, but I was steadily filling a bookshelf next to the crib with classics - like Goodnight Moon - and not so classics - The Giant Jam Sandwich. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood take place on the couch, snuggled up with my mom and siblings as she read picture book after picture book. She kept them all safe, and I gleefully raided her stash of books from my childhood as I prepared for my daughter's arrival.

There is something magical about pulling my own children into my arms and cracking open the pages of a story so familiar that I can recite it from memory. The words fall from my lips effortlessly, and I watch their faces instead, reacting to the artwork, turning the pages with chubby hands and adding their own two cents on every illustration. My kids are fascinated by The Little House - like me, they pour over the simple illustrations, imagining the lives of the tiny figures, and tracing the orchards and roads with sticky fingers. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is another story that has captured all of our imaginations. I still want to kick mean Mr. Henry B. Swap in the shins on behalf of hard-working Mike. Pirates in the Park still gets me on the edge of my seat - who doesn't love a good pirate story starring a girl named Jenny?

Now that my oldest is seven, and starting second grade, we've finally begun to read the smaller chapter books that enthralled me as a young elementary school student. I devoured these little paperbacks, and searched the library for new series to read. The Littles still tickle my imagination, and we've just finished reading Misty, Stormy and Sea Star. We've made our way through the Happy Little Family series and have read several of the Little House on the Prairie series. I found myself as in love with Roald Dahl as I was in third grade as we read through The BFG and The Witches in one weekend. We've got my dog-eared copies of Beverly Cleary's Ramona books on the shelf.


I've written about our shared love of Trixie Belden
and her crime-solving, horse-riding gang. I have put aside copies of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Changeling and Robert C. O'Brien's The Silver Crown, Bridge to Terabithia for the years ahead, when I feel like we're ready to tackle some darker themes.

I'm dying to find out if my kids will embrace the March sisters and make their stories their own, like my sister and I did. I'm excited when I see my kids conjuring pirate ships from walnut shells, and imagining life in rural Kentucky. I know that we are creating memories that will linger as they look into their own children's sleepy faces and whisper "Goodnight stars, goodnight air..."


The Lovely Mrs. Davis is celebrating the 37th anniversary of Sesame Street
! She wants to know what books, movies, music or television shows from our childhood we are looking forward to sharing with our own children. Go check out her roundup of children's media memories!

Comments

I loved Trixie Belden! And yes, the March sisters were my friends. I wanted to be Jo when I grew up. If Jo lived now, she'd have a blog, I'm sure!

Thank you for this. Thing 1 has just started sounding out words and I'm excited to share in her excitement.
We're reading lots of "Junie B. Jones" over here. I've decided to let go of the notion I had that my kids would never hear/know/say the word 'stupid.'

Great post - thanks for sharing your childhood passion for reading and the March Sisters. I have never heard of The Little House or the Pirates in the Park - but I am ordering them through your Amazon link right now. Dahl's BFG is coming to the Arden Theater in Philly this coming winter and we plan on taking our 2 1/2 year old. It is nice to hear about kids being raised with a love of literature and the written word. That kind of parenting is becoming more and more obsolete and, frankly, foreign to most folks. My wife and I begin our parenting journey the same way - thinking of all the books, films, music, etc that we want to want to share with our new bundle of joy. So far, things are going pretty much as planned, which is as scary as it is exciting. She loves reading, has been introduced to the theater (and loved it - saw Seussical Jr this summer and seeing Rumplestiltskin this Friday), does not watch any TV at all. She views only the occasional movie (maybe 2 a week). The TV is just never on in the house, so it does not even come up.

Again, thanks for sharing your stories. This is great.

Jeff

Yeah. *agrees wholeheartedly* Thanks for the memory. I searched for 4 months last year for a book from my childhood, "I can choose my bedtime story" (out of print) to read to my girls and anxiously awaited it for weeks before it arrived. I think it is time to crack it open again. *smile*

I love how the intensely personal book choices that parents make somehow manage to filter down to their children. When I see our kids reading in bed long after they were supposed to have been asleep, I know that all is right with the world.

And if I could bless the pen with which Sandra Boynton writes and draws, I would.

Isn't it fun? My son is 10, and we have been doing the same thing...Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, Ramona, etc. etc...We just started Where the Red Fern Grows, and I'm scared I'll bawl all over the place at the end! So, so precious to read with your babies!

I remember reading Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew. I also loved the Betsy-Tacy series by Maude Hart-Lovelace. My daughter is too young for these, but I'll introduce her when she's older.

Mike Mulligan is one of the books that I've remembered the most from my childhood. Another one I recently found, luckily, so I could share it with my boys is The Key To The Treasure by Peggy Parish. One liked it so much he did his *BIG* book report project on it last spring and came home with a fat "A". Lately the boys have told such wonderful stories that I've given some serious thought to helping them pen them even if to publish through CafePress just for propserity.