We love books because they invite us in to a wonderful, imaginative world. Sometimes, it's very close to our own lives. Other times, it's fantastical and draws us into a bigger world full of new and interesting things. For children, every day is like this, sometimes to a surreal level. Experts say that stories and books are some of the best places for kids to act out feelings, worries, thoughts, and questions. It can also be a wonderful way to prompt discussion between parents and kids about tough topics. As our kids become readers and launch into the world of chapter books, all of this becomes even more important.
What your child reads can offer you an insight into things in his or her life, parts of stories that fascinate or worry kids can let you know what situations your child might be facing, and some books can help you and your child face issues. Every time we read a book, we are entertained, but we also grow -- we can project broader life lessons from the stories into our own lives.
Some books are the very best at this, and even better, they are part of a series, that allow you and your child to keep enjoying the story, characters, and the author's way with a tale. We have five favorites:
A wonderful series for grades three to five (ish) (my kids are younger and love these books), this series touches on courage, honor and ingenuity through adventure and humor. Author and main character Geronimo Stilton, a mouse of Mouse Island, runs a newspaper, has adventures, sleuths, and more. Additionally, many books contain his equally entertaining and adventurous mouse friends and family. My seven-year-old walks around with her nose literally poked into these books. She keeps a pencil behind her ears because these books ask things of her, ask her to participate in them. My four-year-old bribes her sister into reading them out loud. A series from Scholastic (whom we trust), kids can even read more about the story and characters online at Scholastic's website.
Brave with a heart of gold Hank the Cowdog is in charge of protecting his ranch. He's got great friends, but also some enemies, and these charming, warm, and adventurous books explore all the dilemmas protecting and sharing can present. In the first book (of 54, not including additional books and materials), Hank is accused of something he did not do, and he has to work through that. The kids love Hank and the stories, and really relate to his dilemmas, plus are excited by his adventures. I like how it lets us talk about situations I know they experience in school. Author John R. Erickson and illustrator Gerald L. Holmes combine a semi-realistic cartoon style illustration with the fun stories. Hank's website is fun and kids can even get a letter from Hank!
I loved any and all of the Beverly Cleary books, but I liked Ramona and Beezus best because it was about sisters, much like me and my sister. My kids love it for the same reason. We also love these books because they are so lovable—Ramona is a real kid, who has good and bad moments and thinks and feels like a real kid does. Ramona gives real kids a real voice and confirms to them that they aren't in it alone. Ramona also grows up in the books, dealing with ages and stages. Her relationship with her sister is integral, as are her friendships—challenging as they are at time—and it's a great portrayal of how siblings really live.
I first met Flat Stanley when my cousin's daughter in Pennsylvania sent it down to us for a Flat Stanley adventure project. My mother, a long-time elementary school teacher, raved about how great Flat Stanley was. As my kids hit pre-K and elementary school, we got to know first-hand about the fun and fantastical adventures of Flat Stanley. I also learned my seven year old thinks it would be "cool to be able to go flat and go all over the place!" We love how Flat Stanley combines adventure, stories, art, geography and more. Flat Stanley, and other Flat family additions, are genuinely nice and fun characters who enjoy many adventures, often going to or arriving in places in imaginative ways we can't do as Not Flat people. It's fun, creative, and started one of our favorite family car games: "If I were Flat, I could..." Author Jeff Brown created more than great books, he created a wonderful character and stimulated so much thought, personal creativity and adventures and fun.
This oldie-but-goodie is a third generation classic for many families! Ruth Stiles Gannett creatively combines rescue and adventure. Elmer Elevator, the main character, and his alley cat friend, save an exploited baby dragon through clever and ingenious use of every day objects. This thrills my seven year old, who aspires to only use what she has at hand. The Dragon series has endured through the ages because it's universal in its themes and it's so entertaining. Plus, who doesn't like a good, solid white knight rescue story that includes a dragon?
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With so many of our neighborhood bookstores closing, it can be hard to find great recommendations for new children's books. Our librarians are great, of course, but sometimes it's nice to have a different perspective, a different opinion, a different... read more