Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A thousand readings

I've been collecting, reading, admiring, and creating children's books for a good long while now. Until recently, I thought it a relatively easy task to pick a picture book up and determine if it will capture the attention of a child and offer them something of value. I'd flip through the pages, take in the illustrations, and read through it quickly to look for flow.

But becoming a mom has turned all that on it's head. I now read Tilly's favorites over and over, day after day, morning, noon, and night. Soon into those kind of repeat readings, the true quality of the writing becomes plain as day, and the book takes on a different feel. Some books that I first found sweet, I've come to dread slogging through. I trip on their clunky turns of phrase, mouthful of syllables, and jarring jumps in plot. I find myself editing them as I read.

Then others just glide off the tongue and virtually read themselves. It's made me realize how important it is for children's book creators to spend a lot of time reading to children, at some point in their career.

Here we are reading Peter Rabbit (best done in a lion suit).

And here are some of our other favorites; Tilly never tires of them and neither do I.



jeannie brett said...

Coming from a mum of 3 adult kids, this is well said and so true! Thanks Tilly and Anna.

Anna Alter said...

Thanks Jeannie! I can't wait to see how reading chapter books, middle grade, and novels etc changes as she grows...

Libby Koponen said...

Anna, I love Tilly in her lion suit, especially the smiling one.

And I love this post.

I never could see what the big deal was about GOODNIGHT MOON--but the more I read it (and I also read it hundreds of times, to many different two and three year olds), the more I heard and saw to love in it.

One of the most fascinating things to me was that although ALL the children loved it, each saw something different. One smiled in delight at:
"Good-night, nobody," asked what it meant, repeated the line with variations at his own nap time, and eagerly anticipated that page.

Another searched eagerly for the little mouse.

I noticed the beauty and simplcity of the language, and what a comforting (and also inspiring) message the book gives--appreciation of the familiar, the safe AND the big unknown world that's out there, available to eveyrone.

I also would never have noticed that the pages got darker and darker and other detils about the art had I not read it so many times!

That's what I aspire to in my own writing -- something that offers everyone something a little different and that yields more on each reading.

Thanks for posting this.

Anna Alter said...

I don't think I fully appreciated Goodnight Moon until recently either, but it was one of the first books Tilly loved and now I know why. Great description!