The Novice Father: Goodnight baby
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” My favorite book as a small child was “Goodnight Moon.” I don’t know exactly how many times my mom read it to me, but it probably tallied in the thousands. Now it’s my favorite book to read to my 5-month-old daughter.
My wife loves to read “The Runaway Bunny” to the kid, which was her favorite bedtime story growing up. We read to our daughter every night as part of the kid’s bedtime routine. Our small selection of children’s books means our baby hears those two classics many times over. The kid doesn’t seem to mind the repetition, though.
There are a lot of great children’s books out there. Yet I find as a dad that I like to read the stories I grew up reading: the silly poems of Shel Silverstein, the made-up words and worlds of Dr. Seuss, and of course the rhythm and simple elegance of “Goodnight Moon.” These are the stories that I connect with, and these are the stories I want my daughter to grow up to love.
But I don’t want the kid to be deprived of the classics of her age. So I enlisted the help of Kari Thorne, the youth services librarian of the Avon Public Library. Thorne recommended a few children’s series that can be considered modern classics.
“Olivia,” by Ian Falconer, is a series about an energetic and mischievous pig. “Max and Ruby” by Rosemary Wells shares the daily adventures of two bunnies. “Officer Buckle and Gloria” by Peggy Rathmann shows a police officer hardly aware of what his dog Gloria is doing behind his back.
Thorne seemed confident these books would still be classics when my daughter has kids of her own. She noted that what makes these books so popular now will keep them relevant for years to come: great characters, beautiful use of language and, of course, the pictures.
“The illustrations are so important. … Kids can only absorb so many words. What the illustrator has to do is extend the story with the pictures,” Thorne said.
Thorne noted that “Officer Buckle and Gloria” is a great example. The pictures in this Caldecott Medal-winner show an entirely separate story than the words: Gloria the dog finds her own adventures while Officer Buckle is busy with mundane police matters. It’s a secret story between the illustrator and the readers that Officer Buckle isn’t aware of, Thorne said. It’s that secret that makes these books so enjoyable for kids.
I asked Thorne why I gravitate more toward classic children’s books instead of more recent ones. “Maybe because it takes us back to our own childhood and our parents reading to us,” she said. “Because of our own pleasant associations with childhood and reading with our parents.”
My wife and I are both avid readers. It’s likely that our child will grow up to become one, too. But our nightly reading routine is about more than getting her on the path to reading.
“What they really love is that you’re holding them,” Thorne said. “What they love about books is being in their parents’ laps and bonding.”
Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. Submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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