Since I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, my husband is also, and our sons take after us, Children’s Book Week seems somewhat unnecessary in our family. What would make us read books more than we already do? Still, books and children being two of my big interests, I couldn’t help but take notice when an email from amazon.com let me know it was Children’s Book Week.
So I followed the link before deleting the email, but I was disappointed to find nothing about it at amazon.com except links to children’s books to buy. I suppose that’s to be expected from an online bookstore, but I was looking for something more. So I went googled the phrase, and found the official site of Children’s Book Week. I found a bookmark I could download and print if I had some cardstock, which I don’t.
More interesting was a page of story starters, so I printed out the one started by Jon Scieszka (whose book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is a family favorite here). I was going to work on it with my son, whose career goal this week is to be a writer (he was one of a select number of students from his elementary school invited to a Writers Workshop, held day before yesterday). But I was brimming with ideas and started writing. Scieszka called it “And Then…” but my version is more like “The Egg from Outer Space.” Maybe I’ll post it when I finish it.
Scholastic.com had more suggestions of how to celebrate the week. (One is amnesty for overdue library books – so that’s where our local library got the idea! They also offer free replacement of lost library cards this week, though when I tried to take advantage of it for my son’s card, it turned out it had been lost at the library, and they had simply filed it away for him.)
They also have a whole section of resources for parents, which will take me some time to explore, but I hope to find some good ideas on broadening my son’s reading interests beyong Animorphs, Goosebumps, Garfield, Pokemon, and Magic School Bus. (He reads lots of stuff at school, but at home he mostly reads and rereads those.)
What I was more interested in, that took me longer to find, was about older children’s books. It seems that for most of my life I’ve heard about how children used to read more advanced books than they read today, but I had little idea what those were. And even when I learned of specific examples, I generally hadn’t read them myself and knew nothing of them but their titles. Homeschooling catalogs generally list a lot of them, but I wasn’t eager to just start buying them based on a blurb in a catalog.
Tonight I finally found a treasure trove. The Baldwin Online Children’s Literature Project has the full text of a large number of children’s books from about 1880 to 1922. Because these books are in the public domain, individuals may download and print these for personal and educational use. A few of these I am already familiar with, particularly books by Howard Pyle and Thornton Burgess. Some I read as a child, such as Thomas Bullfinch’s Age of Chivalry, but I struggled to get through them and didn’t think of them as children’s literature.
Most of them I’ve never heard of. A lot of them are history rather than fiction, which I suppose still counts as children’s literature if it was written for children to read, but isn’t what I generally think of under that heading. It’s hard to see how In the Days of Alfred the Great or War Inventions and How they were Invented could be as appealing to a child as Harry Potter – though they do sound interesting to me.
The site is well organized, with pages to look up books by author, title, or genre, as well as guides to selecting books on history or world civilizations. There are books of fables and fairy tales, stories from the Bible and stories of saints, biographies and science books (though science is one of the smaller categories). I’m not sure exactly how I’ll use this, but it’s a wonderful resource to have found.