If you know me very well, you will find out that I am not your average 22-year old. I don’t enjoy parties or gatherings with many people and while at one point experimenting with various alcoholic beverages was something we did as friends, I find the thought of it absolutely repulsive after one unfortunate experience with $1.99 beer.
I enjoy reading and researching books. Researching books? I always liked books that had a purpose and left a meaning. When I was in Grade 2 I found the ladybug lifecycle book and absolutely had to know why in the picture one ladybug was on top of the other and what “mating” meant, to which my poor teacher concluded, “They are dancing”. As I got older and pursued many leadership activities I found the best inspiration from books and as an aspiring teacher, desire to share that. There will always be the one kid who hates books, reading, and in general, the very thought of being remotely useful and positive. I like to think it is because reading words out of a book can be very boring, and poor readers read the books that generally follow this sequence:
“He can pat a cat. The cat wears a hat. The bat is on the mat.”
Gee…I don’t understand why he doesn’t like to read?
Okay, so I’m not here to rant about exciting level books, I am here to share my absolute favourites that when read to or talked about to children in my life, they get super excited about it. Sometimes I talk to older teenagers about these books and they don’t realize it’s literally a picture book and sometimes I talk to little kids about books that are big novels. They are interesting because they have MEANING. As a skeptic and a “giver-upper” on bad books, I like to think this list is pretty “legit”.
“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak
It’s very hard to find a fictional book that discusses the realities from WWII without glorifying it. Even more hard is to show what it was like to be German and even more difficult than that is to make it for adolescents. This was one of those reads that actually happened after watching the movie; the movie inspired me to want to read the full story. It’s beautifully written and does its purpose of showing a more tender side to the realities than often what textbooks engrain in kids heads. Actually, I suggested this book to a few young readers and the feedback has been exceptionally positive. There is a star-crossed lover story within but it never overshadows the true problems at hand. It allows current readers to realize parallels between childhood then and childhood now, but both in extremely different circumstances. Highly recommend for a kid who is into learning this part of history and even better that there is a pretty decent movie to follow up with or even prelude to the book.
“The Great Gilly Hopkins” by Katherine Paterson
I had this book in the pile of children’s literature I had to read for my course. This is the kind of title page I would’ve have most certainly avoided when I was younger simply because, it “looks” old. Yes…I judged a lot of books by their cover. If I could do it all over again I would’ve reconsidered many of the rejects. This book is wonderful because it highlights a lot of emotions that are largely kept out of literature for children about foster care. The main character, Gilly, is not actually loveable from first read. You definitely sort of loathe her because she’s rude and a spitfire. However her character grows on you and by the end of the book you are so desperately wanting her to have the happy ending she dreams of. Maybe it is because I have taken an interest in learning about special psychology when it has to do with children but, this story is not one to disappoint if you can get yourself into the mindset of Gilly. It is one of those books where the good reader will read the words and the better reader will read between the lines.
“For the Right to Learn” by Malala Yousafzai
This was an accidental book. It was one of those ones where you really need to balance out your library choices with something that has a little bit of deeper meaning. However despite being accidental, this is an amazing book. When I read it you could have heard a pin drop. It isn’t too heavy into the gory details but it’s enough to make kids realize that, this was a true story and this is bravery. It tells it as it is, the sequence of events and the outcome but does so in a way that has kids listen intently and really want to see the images (which are beautifully done) to better understand what is going on.
My “aha” moment with this book came when, as I was finished all the book reading and this had made it back to the pile, a little girl came over and asked to look at it again. Taking it with both arms she went back to her spot and just stared at the pictures over and over. This same process repeated itself for many little girls to come.
“The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt
I hate picture books. I always did. It was one of those unfortunate cases where I learned to equate picture books with intelligence and therefore someone reading a book that was 3/4 picture, 1/4 words completely stunned me. That is, of course, until I started working with kids who struggled with reading. Now, that doesn’t mean I still agree with spending 30 minutes reading a 20 page book and over-analyzing and inferring to death every single word, picture or “thought”. I think you have to read it through like it was meant to be and discuss later. Make reading fun and about the story, not about “what the author might be feeling” on every single page. That’s for later. I found this book through an app called, “GoodReads” and I literally picked it because it had good reviews. No background information…nothing. The first time I read through it, it was the most ridiculous thing ever but then I realized that most things read to yourself sounds funny. So I read it during a Brownies sleepover and of course employed my arsenal of random, wacky, accents. The book sold me its soul that day. Best. Book. Ever. Not only was there countless laughter, there was something else…a lesson. It’s a lesson that doesn’t necessarily need to be discussed after the story but one that is processed in curious minds after.
Well I cannot believe I am just reading this now; I saw it on Netflix first. Maybe I didn’t understand the movie trailer when I was younger as I was watching my VHS’s but this book is awesome. It has a little bit of everything strange in it and the best part is that it is so visual. It is a hopeful book and has the most strong female character. Matilda is the bomb! She is the shining light in a world that doesn’t appreciate her and she brings out cleverness and intelligence in the people who the mean them most to her.
“Wonder” by R. J. Palacio
I love this book. I love this book because it has a development. Kids reading this book always “wonder”, what does this mysterious character look like? However by the end of it they realize that it doesn’t really matter. Isn’t that kind of like life? It doesn’t really matter what your life looks like; you can spend your whole life trying to figure out how it looks, meanwhile you’ve spent it doing absolutely nothing. I’ve heard this book is used in upper elementary but I’ve had a few parents say giving it a read themselves was well worth it.
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry
The moment I saw a kid in Grade 5 with this book in his hands I couldn’t stop smiling. This book was my all-time favourite in Grade 6. I don’t even know why, it is completely fictional but maybe I had a secret crush on the main character? It totally changed my perception on authority, the idea that you don’t have to believe everything you’ve been told, as the society within the book has. That is not to say it’s the book that will encourage rebellion but it’s the book that makes you think about society as a whole and how we are greatly impacted by our authorities.
“Interstellar Cinderella” by Deborah Underwood
THIS is the bedtime book my future children will be reading. If by some miracle I decide elementary is my cup of tea it’s a book I’ll be reading at some point during the year. Need I say more? This girl is freaking Cinderella in space, so clearly ten times more badass and not to mention the ending has a twist that I would much rather have young readers believing than the original. It’s got a rhythm to it and I highly recommend voices but it’s one of those books that could be discussed at length but is still universal amongst all kids.
“Rosie Revere, Engineer” by Andrea Beaty
Another girl power book! The message of this book is absolutely beautiful and I think so many little girls would take to Rosie in a heartbeat. Ambitious, yet taken down by the complexities of thinking outside the box. Inspired by a real-life female icon, this book had me so excited to share it!
“Ender’s Game” by Scott Orson
A really exciting Ornmadee is fact is that I love space movies and shows…Star Wars, The Martian, Star Trek…I loved watching Star Trek Voyageur after school. So it’s not a huge part of my life but if I was ever delivered a space-themed mug (another obsession) I’d give you a genuine hug (another rarity). I don’t even know why I like this book. I suppose it’s because this character is so weird but brave. He is a typical school laughing stock who is just smarter than everyone else. Maybe it’s because I probably would have enjoyed the stress of the life he endures because there they are given supreme responsibility but that has severe consequences if mishandled. It’s a compelling book and ties nicely with the movie.
….more to come…I need to go to bed.