Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Favorite Books From Childhood

There is nothing that transports me faster into the mist of childhood memories than reading a book from those precious days gone by. Just yesterday, I was shopping on Amazon and I saw something that took my breath away. It was a book that I had not seen since I was a very little girl. I am reasonably sure that I got it for my 3rd birthday. I can't recall what I did with my copy, but I knew I had to have it for my own again. It was Dean's A Book of Fairy Tales. I cannot hear or recall a fairy tale without the illustrations from that particular book springing forth in my mind. Books are powerful that way!
The Little Match Girl illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone

I had a profound experience in my classroom many years ago that taught me about the power of books! I had just finished reading Charlotte's Web to my students.  This is an annual tradition for me because words like "the nearness of cows and the sameness of sheep" are good for the soul! A little girl approached me at dismissal time and whispered something that I will never forget. She said, "Can I tell you a secret? When you were reading today and Charlotte died, I saw you almost cry. I almost cried, too, but I didn't because I know that when I get older, I am going to read that book on my own, and Charlotte will be alive all over again!" Friends, I almost couldn't keep it together when she said that! If a book is truly great, the characters live within us and they begin life anew each time we read their story. 

The timeline of my life seems to be marked off with books. I have loved books from my earliest memories. When my little sister would go down for her daily nap, I would join my mother on our couch. I would put my head in her lap. She would stroke my hair and read The Boxcar Children to me. Not the mystery series, but the original story about how the four orphans lived in the abandoned boxcar until their grandfather found them. I was amazed at their adventures and resourcefulness. Emilie Buchwald was right when she said, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
My mother had been an elementary school teacher. So, I learned to read at a very early age. I devoured books! My favorite place at school was the library. There were books that I read so often that my name was on line after line of the check out card. Our school librarian was always so good about recommending books to me. She'd say, "Now, Jennifer, if you liked Charlotte's Web, you simply must read Stuart Little." She would check it out to me and off I'd go on a new adventure.  Here are a few of the books that I savored over and over again.

I adore children's books! I could spend hours in the children's section of the bookstore or the library. There are some new books that I enjoy very much. Others give me cause for concern. So many books today seem to lack depth, quality characters, and heart. 

Beth March's death will always be tragic. The hearth in the Ingall's home will always remain lit. Aslan's roar of victory over death will always create goosebumps. Ramona's awkwardness will always resonate with 8 year old children. 

I hope that you will consider adding in more classics like these into your read aloud time with your students or children in the coming school year. These stories have endured because something about them makes them timeless.  

So, what books still take your breath away?


  1. Although I'd never be able to read them to my second graders, I loved reading the Harry Potter and Narnia series to my son. I started reading HP when he was in second grade and we read our way through the whole series. Although he couldn't read them himself, he loved the stories. (Still does, even though he can read them himself now.
    In the classroom, I enjoy reading A to Z Mysteries, Jigsaw Jones, Junie B., and Magic Tree House. The ones I read aloud are always the favorites for the students to read on their own.

    1. Oh, I absolutely LOVE Harry Potter, too! My kids enjoy reading or listening to the series, too. I also agree with your classroom favorites! All of those series are excellent for 2nd graders. Over the years I have learned two things that have revolutionized my read aloud time.
      1. Children's listening vocabulary can be 2 grade levels higher than their reading level. So, don't be afraid to challenge them during read aloud time.
      2. Mix it up. After completing a challenging book, read from a series that you want them to check out. You are so right. A teacher's endorsement of a series can make it instantly popular in your classroom!
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  2. I loved this post - and the rest of your blog! I too enjoy reading aloud some classic, older books to my second graders. Every year we start off with My Father's Dragon and the children are always completely captivated by this story. Thank you for all the helpful insights and materials your blog provides. :)

    1. Rachel, your comment made my day! I appreciate your thoughtful comments and encouragement! I am so glad that you read classics to your class, too! I have not read My Father's Dragon. I will definitely check it out!