As I write, I can hear two different Bunnicula audio books playing in separate rooms. My eleven-year-old son wasn’t quite sure what to think when I checked them out, but he should know by now that my book recommendations have usually served him well. He showed the same reluctance to Hank the Cowdog when I first put them into my library basket, but it has since become his current favorite series of books, and he’s read them all. When I was in elementary school, I preferred a humorous animal protagonist over Judy Blume or the Babysitter’s Club, and my kids follow suit.
I burned my kids out on historical fiction and classic literature for a few years. Everything I read to them was from a homeschooling reading list. One website suggests a book for elementary that another doesn’t schedule until high school. We read many misses to find just a few hits.
Taste in reading material is so subjective from one person to another, even among siblings in the same family. I’m not convinced of the benefit of trudging through a book you’re not interested in. The classic titles I was assigned in English class have evaporated from my memory like the plots of all the mediocre movies I’ve seen. The only benefit is that I understand some literature references in popular culture.
Gone are the days when I was able to sit and read a dozen chapters from a read-aloud novel with the four of them gathered ’round. As great as C.S. Lewis books are, they left me hoarse and tongue-tied. I now leave that to professional British narrators, and the kids like it better that way. They devour audio books, and they especially like the stories read by Jim Weiss.
We love books with bold, painted illustrations, and non-fiction with lush photography that fills the page. National Geographic Kids and Usborne titles are referred to often. I read aloud short stories from The Complete Farmyard Tales, Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever, and Tibor Gergely’s Great Big Book of Bedtime Stories in the evening when the distractions of the day are behind us. The younger children love the repetition. Every family has their own sentimental favorites.
I’m a used-book store junkie, but I’ve come to appreciate using the library to provide interesting topics for my kids to read, instead of over-stuffing my shelves with cheap finds. I’m connecting my children to books that fit their personality, and facilitating growth in their interests. If a book fails to pull them in, I can easily return it and find others for them to explore. And once in a while, I strike gold with a book that all of my kids love, and it becomes a part of our fond memories and family culture. I am the family librarian, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.