I hate the word "good" when used as an answer in conversation. It's just ... not good. Not good at all.
So if book talk is an art form, I'm really no Vincent Van Gogh (his birthday is today!). Maybe not even a Mark Rothko. But by gum, I take up my brush with alacrity, day after day, and I splash some color onto that canvas. And I get my kids to do it too. One of these years, we'll have Sunflowers.
The Moffats (Read to the girls; good fun!)
Premlata and the Festival of Lights (Reading aloud to the girls as part of our India study. Reminds me of my tender adoration for Rumer Godden; we came away with four of her books from yesterday's library trip)
Hatchet (Reading to Ian; the girls often listen in. Perfect for a Bear Grylls wannabe.)
The World of Columbus and Sons (Reading to Ian for history. Ms. Foster always makes history comes alive by painting it as a montage of people's stories. I don't read every chapter aloud, but I read them all to myself!)
Ink on His Fingers (Reading aloud -- historical fiction, based on the story of Gutenberg and the printing press)
The Biggest Bear (Read to Caroline, who wanted a repeat and a repeat ... a twist of an ending saved the day just as I feared we were headed for tragedy. The author, Lynd Ward, did the pictures for the old favorite The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge, which of course we had to dig out and reread.)
Here's a list of questions I like to ask the kids at the close of a chapter or a whole book. Not all at once, mind you. We'd call that a firing squad. No, just a mix designed to hopefully draw some insights out of their little brains.
- Who would you say is the main character of this story?
- Where and when does the story take place? (If it's not explicit, we look for clues in the text or illustrations)
- What does the main character want most of all?
- What is the main character's biggest problem? How did that problem come about?
- Does the main character get what he or she wants?
- What does [a different character] want most? (Especially if that character is in conflict with our hero)
- Which character do you like the most? Why?
- Is this story fiction or fantasy?
- Do you feel like the story has a satisfying ending? Why/why not?
- Can you imagine the story ending a different way?
- What does the main character learn that he didn't now when the story began?
These questions could be asked and answered of nearly any worthy book with tearable pages, from The Tale of Peter Rabbit to The Hobbit to Jane Eyre and beyond.
Eliza commented today that in "all little kids' books," the problem always gets solved. I asked her about that, and we ended up coming to the realization that without some sort of resolution, we don't really have a story. Of course, as the reading level becomes more sophisticated, so does the resolution.
Kids learn without being told that "happily ever after" is sometimes something that happens to you, and sometimes something you make happen, day after day, with no promises of tomorrow. Just another reason why great books make great mentors.
For more nitty-gritty on sharing books with kiddos, check out Bookie Woogie's blog. Written by a dad!