6/17/08

Intellectually stimulating bedtime stories for parents

Toddlers love repetition. At one point, I read I Wish That I Had Duck Feet to Red Chief so many times that I memorized all sixty-something pages of it. Luckily for me, eventually he realized its lulling, soporific power and refused it for a few months.

But I wondered, if I can memorize so many verses of Dr. Seuss without even trying, could I get more out of our bedtime reading?

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Fast forward a few months. Red Chief's new favorite was a two-poem book by Eugene Field containing "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat" and "The Dinkey-Bird." I picked the book up secondhand, remembering that my mom had read me "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat" from our Childcraft when I was young, and that I liked it.

I am impressed. Mr. Field isn't afraid to use real words. "The Dinkey-Bird" contains several big, juicy words such as sapient, appogiatura, roundelay, and delectation. I started to feel my brain coming back to me.

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Last month, I received Mom and Dad Are Palindromes for my birthday. I put it up in Red Chief's room with the rest of his books, figuring I would have the best chance of reading it there, as we read to him before his nap and before bedtime every day.

The first time I read it to him, he got fed up with me as I was sidetracked by all the palindromes in the illustrations, and he took the page-turning into his own hands. Now, for inscrutable reasons of his own, it's his favorite.

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Last week I borrowed two books from the library that I remembered seeing in a bookstore: The Girl's Like Spaghetti and Eats, Shoots & Leaves, both by Lynne Truss. Each two-page spread in these books contain sentences identical in everything but punctuation . . . and meaning. The comical illustrations help show the difference between the sentences.

I was an English major in college, and I love grammar, so these books were highly amusing for me. They brought back so many memories of my grammar classes, including a particularly hilarious class on ambiguity. Even if these books don't bring back fond memories of your own, though, I think you'll still like them.

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What are some of your favorite bedtime stories?


(Images from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.)

15 comments:

  1. So, I am just about to leave for the library when I decide to read your post and then immediately jump on the library catalog to see if they have the books you mentioned.
    They have one there and I put two on hold. :-)
    If there is a book that I don't think I can stand reading one more time I tell Red it is due back at the library, even if it is not...does that make me a horrible mother? Red picked out a Spiderman book a few weeks ago and was asking me to read it constantly. After a few days I determined it was due back. Of course, that only works for books we get from the library.
    Right now Red really likes Mother Goose and Beatrix Potter. That thrills me because I enjoy reading those. He also enjoys Book Fair day by Lynn Plourde. I read several Sound Box books every day. Some are cute, some not so much and I do get tired of reading them over and over again sometimes.
    I think I get away without having too much repetition (at least at bed time)in what we read because I take a new stack of 3-5 books up to his night stand every other day or so.

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  2. Oh My! I forgot all about the Gingham Dog and Calico Cat, but I loved that book!

    I actually like to read Dick and Jane books and I picked up a book called Side by Side which I plan to post in my blog soon. I love the retro feel and they have very set morals and Kaia can read a few of the words, which is important as she starts learning to read.

    What's definitely important is to enjoy whatever it is you are reading, as our children pick up on that. (my kids can definitely tell my interest in the ABC book is not very high, so I started signing as much of the book as I can to make it more interesting) Glad you found some you enjoy!

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  3. My favorite bedtime story, as a kid was The Bedtime Book by Dr. Seuss. I was a very simple child. I've noticed though, that my children prefer novels. We read at least a chapter a day and then everyone gets one chapter out of their book just before bed time.
    I love to read so as long as my kids will let me read them something, I'm ecstatic.

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  4. Eats, shoots & Leaves cracks me up. I used to read Thomas Merton to my toddler. It had a lovely soporific effect on him. And we began chapter books early.

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  5. I don't even have kids yet, but I think those last two are some I'll have to check out now. I majored in English too, and I also love grammar. It's almost sad how much misplaced prepositional phrases amuse me.

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  6. I think my favorite bedtime story is still the wonderful, Goodnight Moon. Another fun story that we all love here is called, The Hiccupotamus - it's nonsensical words are delightful and give us all a good laugh. We have also (like Jeanette) been reading the Beatrix Potter stories - I love the richness of language in her tales. I can't wait to check out the books you highlighted!

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  7. Thanks for the suggestions! You'd think by the time I got down to my fifth and sixth child I would have read everything by now!!! I'm with jeanette - there are some books I just can't stand reading to my kids! We read those a couple times and then I try to interest them in something else they enjoy hearing AND I enjoy reading to them!

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  8. Eats Shoots and Leaves & the Mom and Dad book are both fun and educational books we've read recently. Speaking of correct punctuation...the other day we were reading a book from the library and within a couple or so pages I came across two TYPOS. Told dd about it and now she is coming to me and telling me whenever she finds one in a book. Glad her brain is being educated to look for mistakes.

    A couple of yrs ago I had my dd memorize the Gingham Dog book - we enjoyed it. Never heard of the Dinkey-Bird???

    I LOVE books that are for children and yet contain words beyond their normal scope. Also makes it a whole lot more interesting for me as a mom, to read it to them.

    I could never do the repeated book readings to my kids...maybe 2x at the max and then I had my limit and could not continue!

    Favorite bed-time books! Too many to list. I need to blog sometime about all my favorite kid books. I enjoy reading about other people's favorite books b/c they might just have one that I've missed and then I can go and see if the library has it.

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  9. I don't read to my kids nearly as much as I should, which is a source of guilt--my mom read to us constantly. However, my reader loves to read and the littles love to look at books, so I think the bibliophile gene has passed on in spite of our spotty reading aloud.

    One of my favorite books to read aloud is Blueberries for Sal. Such a classic! And the pictures! Love it!!!

    I just love old kids' books. The vocabulary is typically so much more advanced, and the pictures are great too. Plus, they are cheerful, not morbid and dramatic like a lot of newer kids' books which deal with death, depression, divorce, racism, war, etc. Of course our children will have to learn to deal with those things eventually, but not as reading-for-fun!

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  10. Oh, I didn't realize Truss had made a children's book with Eats Shoots Leaves. I thought you were speaking of the adult book and I was thinking, man, they have some heady bedtime stories!

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  11. My husband and I both like Eats Shoots and Leaves. Now I have to check out her kids book. Thanks for the tips!!

    I have book reccs on I put on my blog every monday.

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  12. Thanks for those tips. Those books sound great.

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  13. I remember "The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat" from my childhood, too!

    My favorite read with the kids book is probably the complete works of Milne.

    There are so many great newer kids books out there that it is easy to forget to make time in our reading to relish the classics.

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  14. I googled images of the gingham dog and calico cat and was linked to your sight. I have been looking for the version you have a picture of on your page. I had this book as a child, but it was ruined in our storage unit. I have been looking for this book for about 4 years, with no luck. if you have this exact version, would you be willing to part with it?

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  15. Hello there Anonymous, if you'll email me at the address on my sidebar we'll see if we can work something out. :)

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