There are many kinds of children’s books. You’ve got your one-word-per-page board books full of important nouns—cat, house, pants, pumpkin, etc. The kind the baby can chew and throw a hundred times just to see if something different will happen after the 99th time. Then, there’s what I consider “pop culture” children’s books. They feature superstars like Elmo, Doc McStuffins, Paw Patrol and the like. These are the one’s they usually first ask to take home from the library because they know those guys—they live in the T.V.  and have toys to match. There’s concept books with the basic ABCs and 123s, colors and shapes, ups and downs and all arounds. There’s plastic books for the tub, books that only work with a flashlight, and pop-ups. These are all fun. These all serve a purpose and have a place on the book shelf. I think of them as the animal crackers of children’s books. They’re animal shaped and that’s fun. They’re a snack, nothing too tasty, but satisfying enough and fills you up for a second. Just a second, though.

 

If you were only given animal crackers every day for a week, you’d probably crave something more. I’m talking about something wholesome. Something to wake up your taste buds like the zing of a sweet, juicy strawberry or the crunch of a crisp apple. Something hearty to fill your belly like warm, potato soup or a fluffy, buttery pancake. Something to sustain and nourish. Gladys Hunt refers to such reading as “honey”, or “the sweetness of life” (Honey for a Child’s Heart) . Some books have a place on the shelf. Others, have a place in our heart (or, our metaphorical stomach apparently). Such a book is not merely a children’s book. It is children’s literature. Yet, it’s not only children’s literature—it’s parents’ literature, too. Literature for you and for me. They are growing stories, for anyone who continues to grow, and I hope we all do. To say we are “grown up” implies we are finished growing, and there’s no more to develop, learn, and discover. How sad that would be. The right “children’s literature” can be just the remedy to prevent this sad ending. 

 

A growing story not only helps the reader and listener to personally grow; it also grows something special in the home and family culture. Reading such a story together isn’t just an event—it’s an experience, a memory, a tradition. It’s the story we intend to read with our child, but then unexpectedly find we’ve read it for ourselves as well. Maybe it tapped into something you wish you’d heard as a child, made you tear up (we all need a good cry sometimes), brought back a fond memory, surprised you, or simply made you laugh. Our child asks to read it time and time again, and we don’t mind in the slightest. It’s teaching us something about life, fulfilling some need we didn’t know we had. It’s found our inner-child and embraced her with deep affection, made us better parents to that child and to our own.  

 

Here is a place to share such literature with one another. The experience of reading with our child is most certainly for his benefit, his heart, his mind. And it can be for our’s, too, upon the discovery of true children’s literature—literature that helps all to grow in unexpected, beautiful ways. There are stories I’ve adored since childhood and passed down to my children. This is a tradition of humanity across generations and cultures. Then, there are stories “for children” I didn’t discover until adulthood, and they have affected me profoundly. They’ve become some of my favorite stories, not just in the category of “kids’ books”, but from literature as a whole. I’d love to share some stories that have made their way from our bookshelf to my heart and soul. I would be honored if you would pay it forward. Please, share which stories have traveled that journey for you and yours, so that they, too, may make their way to me, mine, and others. This is the magic and intention of story-telling, after all. 

 

To The Favorite Shelf

 

*Note: You’ll notice I have included a sneak-peak of the stories featured on this page. The purpose of this is to help you decide if it’s a book you and your family may want to read. After some consideration, I decided not to read the books in their entirety, because I believe that first reading is sacred and should be saved for you and your little one(s). Happy reading and snuggling!

By: the Documom Kathleen E Frey

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