The Power of Storytime

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Photo by Kennymatic, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

I’m in the middle of reading The End of Your Life Book Club, a tender story of a son and his mother, who is battling pancreatic cancer, and their relationship through the books they read together during her treatment.  At its heart, its about love, family and the role books play in our lives. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the social aspect of books and reading: how what we read shapes us and our relationships.

I’ve always been a big reader.  Reading before I go to sleep is a necessary ritual, even at times if it’s only the same page over and over until the book drops on my face. But being a parent has reintroduced me to the magic of reading together. (Early on in our courtship, my husband read The Hobbit to me, but complained that I would always fall asleep a few pages in. I maintain I was lulled by his calm, soothing voice.)  After even the crappiest of days, storytime with my kids is always a tonic.  It’s a time where I can connect with them and we can get lost in a story together.

And I’m convinced that reading with kids is one of the (if not THE) most important things you can do with them to foster a love of learning.

My kids aren’t yet reading on their own, so I am cherishing these evening rituals.  In addition to regularly visiting our local library, we love getting books from friends and family for birthday gifts, and we’ve been having lots of fun with our subscriptions from Zoobean (thanks, Jordan!), a cool online service that handpicks books for kids based on their age, gender, interests and other categories you can select.

And while each kid’s list of treasured books seems to be constantly changing (right now, it’s all about Star Wars for my son), there are some collective favorites that have endured over the years.  I think of these as “the Pixars” of books – enjoyable for kids and meaningful for adults, too:

My Friends Taro Gomi – A sweet board book for little ones about friendship.

Runaway Bunny – One of my favorites as a kid. There’s something about Margaret Wise Brown’s language and detailed illustrations that is captivating for the toddler set.

Pretty much anything by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is guaranteed to be clever and silly.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Mo Willems –  Just plain fun to read.  Kids end up in hysterics.

Katy Caboose & Big Bad Bruce – Bill Peet was a Disney illustrator who became a prolific children’s writer and illustrator in the ’60s and ’70s.  These are two of our favorites. His stories are humorous, quirky and feature colorful language and great illustrations.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore William Joyce – This one gets me every time.  A beautiful story about books, stories and how they connect us.  If you doubt the power of children’s literature, try this one.  Apparently, it also inspired an Academy Award winning short film, which I need to see.

The Library Lion Michelle Knudsen – I guess I have a thing for books about libraries/librarians and books. A gentle story about unexpected friendships.

What are your/your kids’ favorites?

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