Thursday, March 20, 2008

Children are made readers on the laps of their (grand)parents (Emily Buchwald)

After monitoring 15 four-year olds artistically gluing green heart-shaped doilies in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I sat on the floor surrounded by eight of them eager to hear the story I planned to read to them.

I briefly flashbacked to Ben Ari, a drama coach who taught me to read with emotion beginning with the Bible and moving on to the Gettysburg Address as well as astounding legal arguments given by Clarence Darrow.  I lovingly credit Ben Ari with my ability to captivate the attention of thousands of pint-sized listeners and their older counterparts.

Luckily, I have always been particularly fond of illustrated children's books.  I marvel at how authors and illustrators use few or no words accompanied by clever illustrations to convey a whole story.

Zoom by Istvan Banyai is one of my favorites.  What makes this volume extraordinary is that it relates to all ages.  Many life situations appear somber close up.  But when you move back, the issue takes on a whole new perspective.

Judith Viorst's books can provide the basis for meaty discussions.  Patricia Polacco delves into much of her rich family backgound to spin delightful tales, one about her ol' man and another about herself struggling in school.  

The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell gives a new twist to a familiar story.  Jan Brett's illustrated books have been called "visual feasts."

If you know any budding gymnasts, they might delight in Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully.  Mischief makes might learn a thing or two from the spitball story in Fables by Arnold Lobel.  Young believers in the unexplained would appreciate Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  I love Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson.  

And finally, a friend of mine, Michelle Shapiro, illustrated a very sweet, sure-to-delight rainbow book by Jennifer Ericsson entitled A Piece of Chalk.

Check out an armful of books and be prepared to spend precious time with your grandchildren. 

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