One of the things I most looked forward to about becoming a parent was re-living all the magical children’s books that I used to love when I was little.
Long before Clara was able to understand the words and looooong before she had the attention span to sit through an entire book, I started collecting all my favourite classics and reading them at her. We are still working on the attention span thing, and I’m not quite sure she gets the concept of reading the pages in chronological order, but it is still one of her favourite activities and it gives me great joy to watch her making the ‘book’ sign and eagerly point at her bookshelf.
Unfortunately our reading time is often perforated by my choking sobs due to my masochistic habit of picking melancholy children’s books. More so than adult chapter books, I find that children’s books have an uncanny ability to really wring the heart strings (not just tug them). I think it’s because the few words are selected so carefully, and then the illustrations really drive it home.
Here are three that no matter how many times I read, I cannot finish without choking up.
of THEE I SING, a letter to my daughters by Barrack Obama
A dear friend brought this book back from the states as a present to Clara before she was born. This friend has a knack for insightful gifts, and also just insight in general, check her out here.
This book speaks to parents everywhere who want to instill self confidence and worth in their children. Obama’s letter to his daughters is formed by positive affirmations ‘Have I told you that you are smart’ and follows with the stories of positive role models like Albert Einstein, Billie Holiday and Helen Keller.
The one down side to this book is that it is very American centric, to the point that it does not translate well to other countries. This is not such a problem for me since I have an American background, but I can see how the final pages that culminate in being proud to be American would make it hard to read to non American families.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
This one has been a long time favourite of mine. A little boy seeking to help his elderly friend recover her memory seeks advice from nursing home residents. He is told that a memory is something warm and precious, something that makes you laugh and something that makes you cry. He gathers the possessions he owns with the mentioned attributes and presents him to his friend. Sweet as honey with beautiful illustrations by Julie Vivas this one has so much to offer children and adults.
10 little fingers and 10 little toes – Mem Fox
Mem seems to be the queen of choke ups! This one again is sure to get the tears flowing. The moral of the story may have been done before – even though we are all different we are all the same – but Mem seems to be able to freshen it up and present it in a really meaningful way. The illustrations by Helen Oxenbury really add to the story, the babies are so full of character and personality, Clara and I spend a long time just looking at the pictures.
I suppose I have one small issue with this story and that is the use of 10 fingers and 10 toes to show that we are all the same. I understand the concept is more that we all have the same basic structure, but children take things very literally and I think children reading this without 10 fingers and 10 toes would feel excluded.
A few years ago I probably would have rolled my eyes if someone had said the above to me, however having experienced a short period of dealing with disability, and also knowing people who live with the stigma of their children not having all their fingers or toes, it’s these little things that really make the difference in social inclusion.