|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?