Today is the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day. It’s a great excuse (as if you need one) to hit your local library and pick up a few picture books to read with your favorite kids. Dr. Suess’s Cat from Cat in the Hat is the face of Read Across America which is great, but I worry that folks with just a passing knowledge of children’s literature don’t realize that there is so much more out there. (I didn’t say better I said more. I love Dr. Suess, too!) Frankly, I get a little steamed when I see Dr. Suess or Suess derivatives making up the bulk of the current top 25 bestselling picture books at Publishers Weekly. New talent doesn’t stand a chance when consumers keep buying the same titles over and over and over.
What else is “out there” waiting to be read? There are plenty of old favorites, and new and exciting books are published all the time. Take a look at what publishers are offering for new books this spring. I’m looking forward to checking out, among many others, Hyewon Yum’s This is Our House. Here’s what Yum’s publisher (Frances Foster Books, an imprint at Farrar, Straus and Giroux) has to say:
A tree has bloomed outside a house on a city block for many years. Inside that house, several generations of a family have grown up. Grandma and Grandpa arrived at the house from a country far away, and Mom and her brothers played on the steps on warm summer days. This little girl learned how to walk on that street, too.
This is a simple, warm story that follows a family through seasons and generations, from the early days of immigration to the times that made their house into a home.
Hyewon Yum is the critically acclaimed author of four previous picture books. Of The Twins’ Blanket, Publishers Weekly said in a starred review that “Yum’s third picture book shows the author/illustrator thoroughly at home with the picture book form.” She studied painting and printmaking at Seoul National University in South Korea. She received her master of fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and presently lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Doesn’t that sound terrific?
Between trips to the library, YouTube has tons of video books you can watch with your children. A particular favorite of mine is Goodnight Moon by that “genius without a talent,” Margaret Wise Brown. (That’s what one of her professors called her. He was wrong. That genius most certainly had an enormous talent.) I profiled Brown for Apprentice Shop Book’s upcoming title Women of the Pine Tree State: 25 Maine Women You Should Know. Her work represents a turning point in literature for young children. Up until Brown started writing, books for young children were mostly nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Margaret wrote about children’s lives in the real world through bunnies and great green rooms.
Not sure how to squeeze every last ounce of goodness from the books you read with your children? (Notice I said “with” your children and not “to” your children. Your little ones should not be passive vessels during storytime.) Check out this video from Teaching Strategies author Breeyn Mack for some great tips. Then grab a kid (I’m sure you have one or two close at hand) and give a few of the read-aloud techniques a spin.
Happy Read Across America Day, everybody!