When you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your life does.
-Kathleen Kelly (You’ve Got Mail)
Reading a book as a child is part of learning about the world. Every page you flip, whether it be by choice or per the insistence of a teacher, teaches you something completely new. Children are just learning what it means to be alive. And books are one of the greatest teachers around. When kids learn something really special, it sticks with them for a long time. Almost everyday something will happen that will make my mind wander back to that one book I read while sitting in Mrs. Drummond’s class. Or that one book my dad would read to us kids, night after night. But, what makes a child see one book different from another? What do they care if you read The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Sleeping Beauty? What makes a book special to children?
There’s a few books that I think back to as my favorite childhood reads. Some were from when I was five and some when I was eleven. They all clung to my heart for different reasons. Children’s books are not only a wonder to read as a six year old, I often go back and leaf through some of my old favorites. And they’re still marvelous. Sometimes, I’ll even find a new children’s book and be absolutely captivated by it. Here’s my list of most memorable childhood books and what they mean to me and why.
Up to 6 years old
This was one of those books that my siblings and I just adored. The colorful and imaginative illustrations always made me want to zip down the street along with those canine drivers. It was just a fun book to read.
Reading about Frog and Toad’s adventures was like sitting by the fireplace, sipping a hot chocolate and listening to two old friends tell you a story. It was heartwarming and often taught me what it was to be a true friend.
I loved this book, but I don’t have much to say other than that watching the works of Harold’s purple crayon was a kick-starter for my imagination.
If I Ran the Zoo is a wild book. It makes me laugh even now. Just like all of Dr. Seuss books, the characters are crazy and wonderfully creative. I felt like I was travelling the world along with the little boy who wanted to run the zoo.
My parents taught me and my siblings to speak Spanish when we were little and multilingual books were a help. I can picture my mom reading about the little girl following her mama, collecting the “maiz” to make the dough. Rolling the “masa” out to make the tortillas round. This book was more about the memories I have of it than the book itself.
I learned a lot from the Berenstain Bears. How to clean my room, how to break bad habits, how to be a good friend, and much more. Not only did they teach me good qualities, they were fun to learn from and relatable.
Miss Rumphius is a beautiful story. The illustrations are charming, but most of all, it’s the story that’s wonderful. It’s starts with Miss Rumphius as a girl, and her grandfather asking her what she is going to do to make the world a better place. Though she didn’t know at the time, she found a way to do just that. It moves the reader to follow in her footsteps and figure out how they can better the world.
7-9 years old
Every week on library day during one of my elementary years I exchanged the previous Pony Pals book out for the next. I still remember where they all were. On the bottom shelf of the cabinet to the left of the checkout shelf. Reading about Lulu, Pam, and Anna along with their ponies was my favorite past time for quite a while. I often fantasized about being a Pony Pal myself and it was the perfect series for the horsey little girl I was.
The Magic Tree house. Beginning one of these books was like starting an adventure. You never knew what was going to happen. As a kid, they were thrilling and so much fun. Not to mention how much they teach you about history.
The inspiring story of a Hurricane Katrina survivor, a pony with a prosthetic leg. Molly the Pony was one of the first nonfiction books I really enjoyed. I liked it so much because it was about a cause I really cared for.
Brenton Damaguchi and his friends will forever be in my memory. This series is funny and adventurous. My dad used to read it aloud to us kids and he is an awesome storyteller. The characters would take turns as narrator of the chapter and my dad would change the voices for every character.
So, the adventures that followed the creation of the homework machine really came alive as we sat underneath our covers listening to the story unfold.
9-11 years old
Mia spent the course of the book trying to deal with telling the world about synesthesia and how it affects her and dealing with how her friends and family take this secret that is now revealed, as well as trying to cope with the death of her grandfather. It amazed me how much I could relate to Mia despite not having synesthesia. After reading A Mango-Shaped Space I finally understood so much that’d never made much sense to me before.
I often find myself thinking back to that time that Winn-Dixie came running up to me at the supermarket and then I realize that it didn’t happen to me, but I read it. Because of Winn-Dixie is an adorable and sometimes sad story that taught me much about life.
This isn’t one you’d normally see pop up on a 4th-5th grade reading list. It’s a picture book. But, I just loved it. I’ve gone back and read it many times. Folktales are so much different than anything else you’ll ever read. These ones were especially humorous and clever and are accompanied with amazing illustrations.
Starting with Little House in the Big Woods, I dove in headfirst to Laura’s tales of her childhood. Something I learned among the family’s countless adventures was that I didn’t need to grow up so fast. It taught me to grasp my childhood and take advantage of being a kid. I learned how to push through struggles and embrace the good times.
When You Reach Me is one of my all time favorites. A time travel book without being traditional sci-fi and at the same time, it’s a tribute to friendships. Almost anything that happens in my life I can relate to something in this book. So many times I whisper to myself, “Sal and Miranda. Miranda and Sal.” Or find myself repeating “bookbagpocketshoe.” It’s an expertly woven mystery combining multiple genres into one.
There are tons of great children’s books out there. It just takes some searching. Go ahead and try out some of my childhood favorites, whether it’s for your kids, your nieces and nephews, your grand-kids, or even for you. Enjoy!
Let me know…
- What are your favorite childhood reads?
- What made those books special?
- Do you have any books you like to read to the kids in your life?