An Old and a New Chapter

At 8 and 6 years of age, my girls are not asking me to read as many picture books as they used to. My six year old still comes at times with some of her favorite titles, like this adorable Rumble Tum. But our favorite picture books rest in our bookshelves. The girls are not so much into discovering new picture books.

Do you see this girl above? Place any of my daughters and a dog instead of Rumble Tum, and you will have an image more frequent at my home. Though not as avid (or addicted, as they call me), as their mother, my daughters are now reading on their own. Insert a big sight of relief.

Will I view picture books the same if I have had another child? I don't think so. I suffered the same malady as Rascoe, who did not have books growing up. As an adult his library had over ten thousand books, several he found in boxes dusty, unread, forlorn. I was not read a single book as a child, let alone as a teen or adult. In six years of teaching I acquainted myself with the popular titles at the time, a few of value, mostly twaddle.I overrated reading. Yes, it is important to read aloud. No, reading is not the most important thing to do with young children.

After teaching, as a homeschool mom, I obsessed with picture books for some years. I accumulated many more nice titles than a couple of girls need. That is why I am selling some. Not only. I still enjoy learning and discovering books and illustrators. But I understand now it is not imperative the girls have I read about or see. When you have so many, none are special or those that are get lost in the piles.

I let the girls tell me what they consider especial. I clean the shelves and ask them, and two things happen, they request me to read the book, or they declare, "you can sell that one, mom".

Even when my 8 year old girl does not gravitate to the picture books as much as before, she still sleeps with her teddy bear, and keeps many soft toys. Her newest addition is her Brighty.

Yes. We had Brighty among our free reading selections for this year. I read with admiration how Nancy and her family enjoyed this classic, Brighty of the Grand Canyon. I wasn't too optimistic about the girls liking the story of a burro. I had read most of Along Came a Dog, a sweet book by Mendeirt DeJong about a crippled hen and a dog who is looking for a home, but it never resonated with the girls. I kept reading it to myself while they played noisily at my side. Two years ago we read Charlotte's Webb, and I had all my hopes in this book being their favorite. That never happened. Oldest girl was 6, youngest one 4, and neither connected with E.B. White. After these failures with animal chapter books, I almost left Brighty unopened.

But something happened, I know not what. From the first chapter both were mesmerized with Brighty. Who would have said suburbia and city like girls, removed from farms, animals and the like, will listen attentively to the adventures and misfortunes of this unusual character? Maturity must have something to do with this. It is possible I have always been one step ahead of them. I was reading Frog and Toad when they could not read. And it was great. And this year, when I expected my oldest to be lost in dense chapter books, she took to read Amelia Bedelia, Frog and Toad, Fairy Tales, and those early readers.

It does not stop here. In our last treasure hunt at the thrifty store, oldest girl came swinging triumphantly a soft toy while exclaiming, "Brighty, mom!" How could I renounce 50 cents and yet another soft toy? But there is more. I saw the audio of The Trumpet of the Swan at the library, read by the inimitable E.B.White, and I picked it just because. I played it even when they did not appear to be following, just because. If you have not heard E.B. White's voice, his way to pronounce water, his reading of the talks the father swan gives to Loui, his dumb son, you are missing one of the most tender words ever written from a perennial naturalist, a tender man, a words genius. Many times we look for christian content books, not realizing that good literature, good books as this, teach character and values with the pull of a formidable story.

After some time, the story got better and better, and the girls' faces at the rear showed engagement. The magic began. Audio books are wonderful. And yes, when picture books season comes to a closure, with the sadness it leaves behind, there comes a new chapter full of marvels.

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