Monday, August 18, 2014

Children’s literature: Early influences

In an online forum for my Early Childhood Education class, students are asked to think back concerning their earliest experiences with books. “Do you remember a parent, grandparent, or teacher reading to you? As you learned to read, were you encouraged to read, and what sorts of books did you like and/or dislike and why? Was reading modeled at home by other family members?”

One of my earliest memories involving books is learning to read out of a Janet and Mark basic reader in school.

I don’t remember the gender biases, uniformity or consumerism supposedly promoted in these books (this according to a letter by Virginia Kidd published in September 1970 by the New York Review of Books). I only remember recognizing in arrangements of letters, the early sentences, “This is Janet.” “This is Mark.”

I was fortunate to grow up in a home where reading was encouraged. My mother brought my sister and me to the public library at least once per week. We each had our own library cards and were encouraged to check out books.

That early habit of relying on the library has persisted throughout my life.

I have no early memories of being read to at home, but feel confident this must have taken place. Books were very present at home and I even built my own library: novels about cats and the Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald.

My mother and I made regular visits to Scholastic Book Fairs at my school.

Science fiction and fantasy emerged as favorite genres at some point in my reading career. I credit my father for my earliest exposures to fantasy and science fiction. I remember watching Star Trek with him and being given books that were tie-ins to the live-action and animated series.

I remember elementary-school teachers reading children’s novels aloud: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richler.

A few years ago, I got to continue this tradition when I guest-read a segment from a Harry Potter novel in a middle-school classroom.

Today my husband and I read aloud to each other, especially from science fiction/fantasy. As well as reading physical books, we each listen to audio books from Overdrive/Library2Go.

At this point, I am probably weakest in my awareness of girls’ realistic fiction and stories involving team sports. I am purposely reading books from these genres in order to better recommend books that match students’ stated preferences.

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