WRB—Children’s Literature Supplement, Jan. 2024
“long and difficult dinosaur names”
Christmas is over, the new year has begun, and a dreadful dreariness descended on the Midwest. Oh for a snowy day! Nothing cures winter blues better, though, than hot chocolate and a good book. CLS has a few ideas for you, as well as a movie review, a dash of poetry, and an enchanting look at ice-skating.
Cold weather joys
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (1962) reminds us of the child-like wonder that snow can inspire in us.
Sarah isn’t a William Steig fan, and she personally finds Brave Irene (1986) a little odd, but her mom loves it. And when Mrs. Schutte has a book opinion, Sarah listens.
First Snow by Emily Arnold McCully (1976) is very sweet, and a great testament to the versatility of the author.
Finding appropriate books for your teens can be a challenge. Feeding them beautiful books with good writing and interesting stories from the beginning will greatly aid both of you when they start asking for more advanced literature, and you’ll both find yourselves being more discerning about the books that are chosen. Yes, there is quite a lot of junk in the YA section (personally, Sarah thinks most YA sections should be pulped and made into something useful, like paper towels), but it is possible to find gems.
Jane Austen is a wonderful choice, but you don’t have to jump to tough classics straight from Encyclopedia Brown. There are plenty of resources to help you with this hunt, and here’s one of them.
Don’t underestimate the power of memory work, especially when it comes to poetry. Not only does it stretch the mind, it gives children a chance to understand the flow and rhythm of well-placed words. Additionally, it is a wonderful way to teach good speaking habits and proper stage presence.
Memorization doesn’t have to be a chore, either, or just for children who can already read. The inestimable Mrs. Schutte figured this out early on, and would teach her brood poems using simple, hand-drawn pictures and symbols.
Many of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic rhymes were learnt this way, and Sarah now employs the same technique to teach some students Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Village Blacksmith.
She even adopted the idea for a personal challenge, and used it to start memorizing John Gillespie Magee Jr.’s poem High Flight.
You can easily do it on a piece of paper, but a dry-erase board is the best option. Some wonderful starter poems can be found in A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson (1885). Happy memorizing!
There are loads of arguments on both sides of the “kids and television” debate, but instead of adding to the noise, Sarah just wants to offer some resources.
First, don’t forget dear Mr. Rogers. His shows are some of the most interesting and wholesome bits of TV you’ll find.
Second, LeVar Burton is a legend to Sarah, not because of his Star Trek: Next Generation role (though that’s certainly very good), but because of his work on Reading Rainbow. She still hums the opening theme song and smiles.
Third, a nurse friend of Sarah’s was recently bemoaning the stupidity of most children’s shows on offer at the hospital. Besides that lovely ray of hope, Bluey, the rest goes from insipid to mind-numbing, and even stoops to the silly (e.g. parent-run YouTube accounts with videos of their kids playing with toys, which are then watched by other kids). How does one combat this brain-fog-inducing content? Sarah’s friend had a suggestion: Play videos of concerts for children. Find good bluegrass bands, classical music concerts, and child-friendly plays. Introduce them to bird cams and videos about the 50 states. Food for thought!