Our favorite children's books
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The books we read as kids have a long-lasting effect. They not only help us learn to read -- to decode text and build comprehension, as well as spelling and all the rest -- they make a mark on our psyche. We all remember "The Cat in the Hat" and Curious George. They become icons to us early on and they endure in our memories.
As talk of summer reading really kicks in, here are some of our favorite books from earlier days. Share yours using the talkback feature or Facebook comments below.
When I was a child, I'd often stay up late on Saturday nights watching horror films with my grandfather. Horror was a huge part of my upbringing as much as it was a huge part of my grandfather's in the form of film, comics, toys and children's literature. I think it was my uncle who bought me a stack of Goosebumps books from a local garage sale. From that point forward, I was hooked with R.L. Stine's nightmarish storytelling. The stories gave me the creeps but they also taught me to appreciate stories of the niche genre.
I read all of the classic Goosebumps books including "Night of the Living Dummy," "Haunted Mask," "Say Cheese and Die," "Welcome to Dead House," and "Stay out of the Basement." I remember going to school with a Goosebumps book or two in my backpack at all times. I'd even attempted to write my own Goosebumps story in elementary school but never finished it, of course. I think I still have all of my copies in a dusty box somewhere, so the horrific tales can be re-introduced to a new generation sometime down the road.
I was a voracious reader as a child, but even as the average page count of my books rose, I always found myself returning ever so quickly to Shel Silverstein's books of poetry. I don't know how they wound up in the house; I just remember finding "Falling Up" and "A Light in the Attic" in our bookshelf and becoming hooked. They were a little dark, but always playfully so. They captured my imagination, igniting a passion for writing and playful creativity. Those brief highs from childhood, reading stories about poets writing from inside a lion and people with their heads on their butts, have never quite worn off.
My favorite growing up (as it was for many) was "Goodnight Moon." I honestly don't remember much about the story, other than the cover, but I do recall my mom reading it to me quite often.
I owe my love for language, poetry and playfulness with words to Shel Silverstein. I started reading his work at a very young age and "Where The Sidewalk Ends" has been a favorite for as long as I can remember. For years, I had many of his quirky poems committed to memory, including the deliciously gruesome and lengthy "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out." I have read this book, and his other collections, to my sons many times and they have strong opinions now as to which of his poems are their favorites. ("The Dancing Pants" ranks pretty high, among others.) Also, his simple sketchings offer a lot of heart and humor to his words. RIP, Shel. You really blew my mind at four and continue to do so decades later.
I'm a big fan of Miroslav Sasek's series of "This is..." books, and my favorites are "This is New York," "This is Venice," "This is Paris" and "This is Rome." I love Sasek's stylized artwork and his overviews of the sights and sounds of the world's great cities. Another favorite is Rona Beame's 1973 "Ladder Company 108," which follows a Brooklyn firehouse for a day. As a kid I was intrigued by the photographs and the human stories Beame captured on both ends of the hose.
I loved anything by Richard Scarry. I remember sleepovers at my grandparents' house, searching through those books for Goldbug and Lowly Worm. Something about the realistic style of illustration and unfolding road trip storylines entertained me, and when I had my own child, I picked up a few of Scarry's books once again. Looking back at them, they are delightfully '70s, but a good tool for teaching kids about the world around them.
"The Little Engine that Could." The story is inspirational, the illustrations great and the mantra, "I think I can, I think I can," perfect. It was first published in the United States in 1930, and stands the test of time still today.
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