Tag Archives: Children and books

Reading to Children

July 2007

Before I was even married, I read to my step-kids. It was a stupid Sesame Street book. When I got done and had put them to bed, their father said to me, “I know why you like to read so much, you read really well.” He is probably right. My mother was a librarian, and my father should have been. I got read to a lot, and I got to see adults reading for fun. Both my brother and I still read quite a bit.

They say you should read to your kids 30 minutes a day. I don’t do that, but I do read to them a lot, and I have learned a couple of things about books. As a parent, you have to make a quick decision. If you think you will not like reading a particular book to your kids, get rid of it as soon as possible, before they have a chance to get attached. This way reading to them is still enjoyable to you. If you aren’t enjoying it, they will catch on.

I don’t have a vendetta against Sesame Street, but their writers just aren’t the same caliber as other contemporary writers. Some of their books are better than others. I really like There is a Monster at the End of this Book. However, none of their books holds a candle to Sandra Boynton or Dr. Seuss. I literally have read Mr. Brown Can Moo over 500 times, to just two kids, and I’m not finished, I still have two to go! Luckily for me, I am not tired of it yet, although the book is looking pretty tired these days. I’m not even bored with Goodnight Moon, but I do have both memorized. I also can recite large portions of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by heart, and if you are under 10, I’ll even sing it.

When I read, I don’t always read exactly what is on the page, so my kids can’t call me on making the story shorter that it is supposed to be, although I don’t try to do that. Some authors write well enough that their words flow off the tongue with ease, and others’ phrasing just isn’t right. I guess that is the writer in me coming out. I also make my kids participate. When we read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day you can guess what I had my kids do. That is a lot of words to memorize, but my three-year-old Sarah did pretty well. Some of the best books don’t even have words, like the Carl the Dog books.

When Lydia was really little, we belonged to the Cat in the Hat book club. After several months, I cancelled my subscription, for two reasons. Some of the books were lousy, and as I told the lady with whom I canceled, we have more than 100 children’s books at our house as it is, and I probably should not be acquiring more on a regular basis. As my Mother-in-Law helped me pick up one day, she suggested putting away most of the books and only keeping a few out at a time. I was appalled! I would rather take away all of their toys than all of their books!

I am anxious for my daughters to become old enough to enjoy Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the Betsy Tacy books. Unfortunately, I yawn when I read out loud. A lot. I can only imagine how many yawns for each chapter, probably upwards of 50. Even Skippyjon Jones ranks about six. For some reason I do it when I am singing too, but not when I am talking. I try to project, so I can inhale more oxygen, but haven’t had good results, fortunately my kids are patient.

Sesame Street

July 2007

I don’t let my kids watch Sesame Street. Why? Good question. We don’t watch much TV at our house, we get the Prairie Package: Fox, CBS, NBC, ABC and PBS. Since I don’t watch soap operas, women gossiping, or people suing or exploiting each other for entertainment, the TV sits off until Jeopardy comes on at 4:30, (although I have been known to sneak in a little Rachel Ray). I do let the kids watch TV for a while during the day, a half hour here and there, usually when we are eating lunch, or when I need a diversionary ploy. The TV is not on for noise at our house.

Back to Sesame Street. It was great when I was a kid, in fact my brother learned to read by watching Sesame Street before he went to Kindergarten. The program has changed though, and not for the better. The first half isn’t so bad, but the second half, the half aimed at younger children, specifically Elmo’s World, is lousy. Although we don’t know what causes autism, it is widely assumed that children should not watch things that “flash”. The whole premise behind Elmo’s scenery is flashing and throbbing. Several other segments like “one of these things doesn’t belong here” flash as well.

The other thing that offends me about Elmo’s World is that when Elmo wants to learn about something, for example music, he asks Mr. Noodle, who is silly but harmless, then he watches “the music channel” on a TV then he asks a baby. I don’t see anything specifically wrong with these things, but as an adult, I would not be able to learn anything useful from these sources, even a grade school child would not learn anything from these sources. Apparently the Sesame Street neighborhood lacks the basic fundamental of learning, a library. As annoying as he can be, at least Barney has a library card.

(2023 side note: One day Lydia Mae came to me in the kitchen and very solemnly said, “In Germany sometimes women wear a dirndl for special occasions.” I was floored. Then I went to a dictionary to look up dirndl. Sure enough, Lydia was right. Where did she learn this? Several weeks later I was walking past the living room and there was Barney’s Colorful World, and Barney was explaining just that same thing in those same words.)

Personally, I love Curious George. He has a great personality, he doesn’t speak English, and the show focuses on his imagination and how he learns through trial and error. I also love Mr. Rogers, and so do my kids. He isn’t flashy and modern, but he is engaging and interesting, his program provides the kind of television environment a young child should expect. George and Fred have both visited the library, although George didn’t go there to look at a book.

Barney is a little sappy, but also good. I don’t mind Clifford or Calliou either, although we don’t watch them as much. I wish these things were on Saturday mornings. What passes for children’s programming Saturday mornings is awful, and what isn’t is very scattered. I don’t mind Babar or Veggie Tales, but finding them and having the TV off in between isn’t easy. We either leave the set off or watch a movie. There is nothing wrong with having the TV off, but sometimes I just want the kids somewhere that doesn’t involve being under my feet.

I now take an active role in my children’s television viewing. When my oldest child was a few months old, I wanted to mop the floor, so I put her in a swing, in the living room and turned on Saturday morning TV then left for the kitchen. When I got done mopping and went to get her, she was watching some kind of skanky women’s wrestling. I felt horrible for exposing her to such programming, but I atoned by setting aside a special “counseling account” for her.