You Can’t Judge a Book…

Do you remember that book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulghum?  I discovered it in college, and I couldn’t believe how true much of it was. It kind of made me wonder, for a moment, why the heck I was spending all that tuition money.  Now I haven’t read that book in a long while, so I apologize if I’m stealing from Fulghum.  I have noticed, however, that much of what I need to know about reading, I am learning from my preschool-aged son.

The lessons are simple, but important.  After watching my son enjoy his books over and over again, the pleasure and importance of rereading has become apparent.  (See my post from last year, The Joy of Rereading.)  I also have learned about the meaningful, social aspect of reading.  Stories are ways to connect with my children–a shared experience to enjoy while actually reading the books or when making connections to the stories as we go throughout our days.  This summer, the main lesson may sound a bit familiar–don’t judge a book by its cover.  To be more specific, E has taught me to not judge a book by its cover, yellowed, torn pages, cracked spine, old copyright date, and more.

At the beginning of this summer, I brought home two boxes of old picture books that I had been storing in my classroom for some time.  I already have picture books out for my fifth graders, but these didn’t make the cut.  They have a stronger appeal with the younger crowd–perfect for my little reader.

On day one, it was a total book festival at our house.  E picked up, thumbed through, smiled over, and asked about every single book.  Each one was a treasure, despite its age or condition.  Some of these books were purchased before I was born, hand-me-downs from my student teaching mentor when she retired.Old Books

All summer long, these books have been my son’s go-tos.  It has been wonderful to revisit old favorites like Crosby Bonsall’s The Case of the Missing Stranger, Ezra Jack Keats’s Whistle for Willie, and Esphyr Slobodkina’s Caps for Sale.  I still can’t figure out how that cap salesman can place all of those caps on his head, but the monkeys distract E from such frivolous questions.

The real surprises are the books that I didn’t remember well. I guess I’m not up on my 1954 award winning books, but Madeline’s Rescue (a Caldecott winner), by Ludwig Bemelmans, was truly delightful.  Oh, how the girls rally together to find their dog, Genevieve!  In Tikki Tikki Tembo, retold by Arlene Mosel, we cannot help but relish in repeating the first son’s name over and over, “Tikki tikki tembo-no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.”  And when the second son mixes up his brother’s name when in a panic?  Giggles all around!

Crictor, by Tomi Ungerer, was another gem.  A story about a woman getting a pet boa constrictor, it was most likely the reason my son kept asking to see the snakes at our last visit to the zoo.  One thing about this book and several others we’ve read was the old use of just two or three colors for the illustrations.  In this case, it was just black and green.  E does not seem to miss the depth of color choices used by modern illustrators.  The pictures still do an amazing job of telling the story.  We especially love the picture of Madame Bodot “walking” Crictor in the snow, with him all snugly warm in the sweater she knitted for him. This book has cracks and rips in so many places, but E doesn’t seem to notice.

I hope to remember this lesson from my son.  Always excited to get the new, shiny book at the bookstore, I must not forget the worn ones on the library shelves or on my own bookshelves.  I hope to encourage my students to do the same.  With my classroom library aging with me, I know some of the books are starting to look a bit dated.  Hidden behind the newest finds from the book fair, I hope my students will discover some greats–old, worn, falling-apart works of beauty!