Don't read lousy books to kids
Quality selections show that reading is worthwhile
I can't tell you how many times I have read a book and been dumbfounded by how pointless it is. Children are beautifully and willingly attentive, but there is great danger and resulting damage in reading a pointless or poorly written book to a child.
Lousy books will transmit the message that reading is boring or just flat-out a waste of time. Conversely, reading terrific stories that have something tangible children are transformed by will send the strong, positive message that reading is awesome.
Such is the case with the books recommended below. For more first-rate book suggestions, visit this column's companion website: greatestbooksforkids.com. Don't let kids down. Take the time to find the cream of the crop and skip over the rest.
Books to Borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
"Thank You, Mr. Falker" written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, Philomel, 40 pages
Read aloud: age 6 and older
Read yourself: age 8 and older
Based on Patricia Polacco's own childhood, this beautiful story shares the pain of having a learning disability and the joy of overcoming it.
At first, Trisha loved school, but when she realized she had great difficulty reading, she began to feel dumb. Letters and numbers looked like wiggling shapes, and her classmates made fun of her. Trisha not only felt stupid, but her self-image was rapidly deteriorating.
It wasn't until fifth grade that help arrived. With gentle guidance and perseverance, her teacher worked with Trisha and helped her overcome her problem and, in turn, helped her realize that she wasn't at all dumb.
An outstanding story of courage, this is Polacco's heartfelt thanks to the teacher who made her life whole, and a message of gratitude to all of the teachers who do the same for their students.
Library: Sutter County Library, 750 Forbes Ave., Yuba City
Library Director: James Ochsner
Children's Librarian: Chalese Valdez
Choices this week: "The Napping House" by Audrey Wood; "John, Paul, George and Ben" by Lane Smith; "The Tale of Despereaux" by Kate DiCamillo
Books to Buy
The following books are available at your favorite bookstores.
"Dear America, The Diary of Hattie Campbell: Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie, The Oregon Trail, 1847" by Kristiana Gregory, Scholastic, 2012, 194 pages, $12.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 8 and older
Read yourself: age 10 and older
Thirteen-year-old Hattie Campbell and her family have suffered the painful loss of Hattie's four sisters who recently died one after another from swamp fever. Now there are only three children — Hattie and her two younger brothers. When Pa said they were going to move from their home in Missouri to Oregon, Ma was not at all happy. Pa said it would be a fresh start where there wouldn't be any sad memories.
The 2,000-mile trip would take a long time and require a lot of courage and perseverance. Hattie records the events of their journey in her diary, some that are delightful and exciting and some that are dangerous and frightening and filled with terrible sorrow and difficulty. Ultimately, Hattie learns a lot about herself, friendship and small, important moments in life that are the most precious.
"STAY: The True Story of Ten Dogs" by Michaela Muntean, photos by K.C. Bailey and Stephen Kazmierski, Scholastic, 2012, 40 pages, $16.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 4 and older
Read yourself: age 8 — 9 and older
Luciano Anastasini was a very famous circus performer. The circus was the life he loved, but things changed abruptly when Luciano fell 50 feet from the high wire and broke so many bones, the doctors told him he would eventually heal but his days as an acrobat were over.
Luciano worked doing odd jobs in the circus, and soon an idea for a circus act began to take shape that would involve dogs. Luciano felt he had been given a second chance, and rather than find the dogs for his act through breeders, he decided to give a second chance to dogs that no one wanted any more.
Adopting 10 dogs that had been rejected by their owners as hopeless cases, Luciano saw hope in each of his dogs and believed that through love, nurturing and hard work, he and his dogs could do remarkable things together — and he was right.
An amazing, inspiring true story, this selection is wonderful and uplifting in many, many ways.
Kendal A. Rautzhan writes and lectures about children's literature. She can be reached at her website: greatestbooksforkids.com.