Over the past couple weeks we've been reading some books in honor of Father's Day. The books that we chose involved some kind of interaction between father and child.
David Ezra Stein
This story centers around bedtime in Little Red Chicken's home, with Papa trying to read classic stories (Hansel and Gretel, Chicken Little, etc.). However, despite her good intentions and promises to not interrupt, Little Red Chicken continually interrupts the stories before Papa can finish them - she gets so involved in the stories that she jumps in and creates her own endings. The book was fun, and my kids found it humorous, but it hasn't been a book that they have continued to request.
Illustrated by John Schoenherr
This story revolves around a little girl and her father on the first night that she gets to go owling (looking for owls) with him, something which she has been looking forward to for a long time. The pair walk silently through the snow beneath a full moon, and the father occasionally stops to make a Great Horned Owl call. The text is poetic and descriptive, and my older kids (ages 5 and 3) and I enjoyed it. We have visited a nearby nature center a few times previously where we learned about and saw Great Horned Owls; this previous experience and my kids' love of nature lent to their interest in this story.
These books are written by the same author that writes the Llama Llama books, and the story is in the same lighthearted rhyming style. In the story, Nelly Gnu spends a day with her daddy as together they build a playhouse out of a cardboard box and go shopping for supplies. We enjoyed the book, just as we enjoy the other Llama Llama books. Though I think Anna Dewdney's books are fun to read, my kids request them on occasion but not time and time again.
Illustrated by Aliki
This is an older book, evidenced by the decades-old "Date Due" slip pasted in the front of the library book version we checked out, with stamped dates shown from the early 1990's. Feeling like a bit of a relic, I pointed out to my kids that this is how we used to check out books before there were barcode scanners in the library. In this story, a young girl walks silently with her father on a Listening Walk, and she describes the sounds she can hear - the scratching of her dog's toenails on the sidewalk, the whisper of lawn sprinklers, the hiss of a city bus, the cooing of pigeons, and more. After reading this to my kids, we sat on the sofa in silence, listening for a minute, and then tried to describe the sounds we heard, particularly those we may not have noticed previously. I appreciated how the story placed a value on silence and becoming aware of the many sounds around us. The thought of a listening walk is quite appealing to me, as I enjoy quiet (a rare thing with 3 young kids in the house) and practicing mindfulness. However, I don't think my talkative kids would be able to be silent for an entire walk - they are more like Little Red Chicken in Interrupting Chicken, mentioned above. I think I will have to settle for the possibility of "listening minutes" when we go out walking.
I generally try to look ahead at upcoming months to see what holidays and observance/recognition/awareness days/months are coming up, and then I try to request library books or plan activities centered around certain holidays, observances, etc.. The holidays on which I choose to focus may be national, international, religious, lesser-observed, or just plain fun, such as Talk Like a Pirate Day. There is always much more going on than I have the time and energy to address, so I pick and choose a few topics based on what seems feasible and relevant at the moment. Recently, this planning fell by the wayside as the busyness of summer hit and time quickly crept up on me. Consequently, Juneteenth was a holiday that I hadn't realized was just around the corner until a friend mentioned it. Though I was behind in my planning and was not able to find any nearby Juneteenth activities that would be suitable for young kids, I did manage to check out a few children's library books on the topic. Juneteenth is a celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States and is based on the the date of June 19, 1865, which is when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that all slaves were now free. The news didn't reach Texas until two and a half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and a couple months following the official end of the Civil War. Juneteenth is a celebration of African-American triumph, but talking about Juneteenth means talking about the reasons that we have a Juneteenth - slavery in the United States. I wanted to include Juneteenth books in our reading list as I like to take advantage of opportunities to talk to my kids about race and ethnicity and to address our nation's unsavory history and current situation (also at times unsavory) regarding race and ethnicity - all at an age appropriate level, of course. I am of the opinion that it is important to talk to kids early about important and sometimes sensitive issues such as race and discrimination - again, at an age appropriate level - rather than skirt around difficult issues or wait to talk about issues until a point where the culture at large and media have already provided their version of information (or what I often consider to be misinformation) to children. Children's books are a great way to introduce a variety of difficult topics to young kids, though I personally try to preview the books to see if they present material in a way that aligns with the values and beliefs my husband and I want to teach our child. The books that we selected from our library system are mentioned below.
In this story, Mazie's father tells her about Juneteenth, about how her great-great-great grandfather was there when news of freedom reached Texas, about the struggle her grandfather and others continued to face throughout the years, and about how Juneteenth is a time to celebrate the triumphs and remember the struggles of African-Americans. The book is beautifully written and illustrated. Of the Juneteenth children's books we borrowed from the library, this was Hopper 1's favorite, and I would recommend it too.
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
This story is told from the first-person viewpoint of a young slave and recounts the day when she and other slaves in Texas heard that they were now free people. It is impossible to imagine what it must have been like to hear such news as a slave, but for me, the text and illustrations in this book had such a personal feel and were so beautiful and quietly full of emotion that they pulled me into trying to do the impossible. This is another Juneteenth book I would highly recommend for reading to young children.
Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan
Cassandra has recently moved with her family to her parents' hometown in Texas, where she takes part in her first Juneteenth celebration, which is filled with food, music, performances and parades. The story allows readers to see how one community celebrates Juneteenth. While the story covered the origins of Juneteenth and how it may be celebrated today, it did not have the depth of emotion that the other Juneteenth books we read had.