Childhood television and books

I would strongly consider raising my (future, hypothetical) children without television. I think that there are lots better ways to spend one's time, and they're going to spend enough time staring nearly-passively at a [computer] screen as it is. (I wouldn't be averse to having a small-to-mid-sized monitor and NetFlix, though.)

However, I must say that reading these blog posts about Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and Sesame Street, and other things that parents remember from their childhood that they want to share with their children was very nice. Heck, I don't even have kids, and I've already blogged about Sesame Street, so I can't blame these folks who actually have kids. If you're a Fred Rogers fan, you might especially enjoy reading this, although the photo there is a bit creepy. I think he was, um, younger when I watched. (Also regarding the photo on this post, I don't think he wore running shoes when I watched him. I think he changed into and out of canvas sneakers.)

On a related note, I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance about books that were read to me as a child. The topic came up because he was looking for things to read to his five year old daughter. We came up with the following, as appropriate to be read to a five year old. What did we miss?
  1. A Cricket in Time Square
  2. Alice in Wonderland
  3. All of a Kind Family
  4. Betsy, Tacy, and Tib series (probably more fun to read herself)
  5. Charlotte's Web
  6. Dr. Doolittle (note that there is the original racist version and a cleaned-up version)
  7. Freddy the pig books
  8. James and the Giant Peach
  9. My Father's Dragon
  10. Pippi Longstocking
  11. Stuart Little
  12. The Borrowers
  13. The Ramona books (probably more fun to read herself)
  14. Through the Looking Glass
  15. Winnie the Pooh


miriam said...

Wizrd of Oz (and its copious sequels)

i recently recommended the series as a read-aloud books to someone else b/c her son likes the movie, and shee said "there are books?"

ALG's mother who fondly remembers reading to her as a child said...

Mr. Popper's Penguins is very funny and the anthology Free to be You and Me is nice, too. I was reminded of these when I looked in my ancient 1982 edition of Jim Trelease's book, The Read-Aloud Handbook. I have seen newer editions, which might have other good suggestions. I recommend that all parents own this book--It's a treasure!

Avi said...

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Anonymous said...

I really really when daddy read the Grimm Brother's fairy tails (the green book, orange book, etc.) They were very entertaining, with lots of fun plot twists. Very sexist, I think--most of the heros are men--but I don't think that effected me.

alg's dad said...

To Anonymous: The Green Book of Fairy Tales, the Orange Book, etc., are not the original Grimm brothers' fairy tales, but an adaptation of the Grimm fairy tales, and of fairy tales from several other sources, by Andrew Lang. They would be on my short list of books for reading to 5 year olds.

alg's dad said...

I’ve been meaning to comment on this post for a while. Originally, I made a list of all the books I could think of that my mother read to me when I was little, and that I read to any of you, or at least the ones I liked. Then Imma pointed out that the request was specifically for books that are good for reading to 5 year olds, who are a little too old, maybe, for Margaret Wise Brown, but too young for the many classic books for older children. So I will limit my comments, at least for now, to books that I remember enjoying when I was about 5, or that I think 5 year olds might enjoy. I’m not sure that I was exactly 5 for any of these books, with one exception as I will explain below, but I was about 5. This comment is still too long, even with that constraint, so I will divide it into two comments, one dealing with prose fiction, the other with poetry and non-fiction.
1) Mary Poppins, and its three sequels
2) Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling; I thought of this because my original list included The Jungle Book, but that is for somewhat older children, I think. (Also, maybe The Jungle Book is racist, or at least colonialist? I’m not sure, it has been too many years.)
3) The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Graham. Maybe I was 6 when my mother read it to me, but not much older. I was very fond of it, especially the chapter about Pan. There was another book by Kenneth Graham, but I don’t think it made as great an impression on me.
4) That leads in two directions. Speaking of Greek myths, I learned most of them from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales, at about that age. But I have a vivid memory of being crushed by the sad ending of the Theseus story, when he forgets to change the black sails to white sails, and his father, thinking he is dead, dies of grief. I remember asking my mother, if any of the other stories had sad endings like that, to please change them to happy endings when she read them to me. She agreed, though I don’t think she ever had occasion to do it. I had no sense at all, then, that the sad ending was necessary from a literary point of view, and especially for a Greek myth, to balance the happy result of the defeat of the Minotaur.
5) And speaking of Pan, there is Peter Pan and Wendy, by James Barrie, which was my sister’s favorite book by far at that age. She obviously had a crush on Peter Pan. There is also the much less well known Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, which my mother also read to me, though it has less of a plot than Peter Pan and Wendy, and more philosophizing. Still, I enjoyed it.
6) I read you stories from an excellent anthology called Stories for Eight-Year-Olds. The same authors, Stephen and Sara Corrin, also have Stories for Six-Year-Olds, which ought to be fine for a bright 5 year old (and whose 5 year old is not bright?). They also have Stories for Seven-Year-Olds and Stories for Nine-Year-Olds, but that is off topic.
7) You mentioned the Borrowers and its sequels, but not another good book by Mary Norton, The Magic Bedknob. It was reprinted as Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the title of the Disney movie based on it.

alg's dad said...

So far I have been listing only works of prose fiction, but let’s not forget poetry, and non-fiction. For poetry, my favorites as a child, maybe even younger than 5, were Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and The Golden Treasury of Poetry, which I read to you when you were little. There is also Edward Lear’s nonsense verse, of which The Owl and the Pussycat is only the best known. Also Eleanor Farjeon's poems for children; her stories are more for older children, except maybe Martin Pippin in the Daisy Field.
You shouldn’t underestimate how much a 5 year-old can enjoy having a non-fiction book read, if it is of interest, and a 5-year-old can have very idiosyncratic interests. I loved having The Golden Guide to the Stars and Planets read to me, even at age 4, even though it is supposed to be an adult book. My great-grandmother L (your middle namesake), hearing that I was interested in astronomy, bought me a more age appropriate book, but I found it boring and childish. I also remember my mother getting a children’s book about crabs out of the library, at my request, and reading it to me. (I was fascinated by crabs for a brief period, much shorter than the 50+ years that I have been fascinated by astronomy. I think I liked the fact that they walked sideways.)
My mother read to me from the one-volume Golden Encyclopedia when I was 5. The insides of the front and back covers had, respectively, pictures of famous explorers, like Columbus and Magellan, and pictures of famous scientists, like Newton and Galileo. I remember pointing to each picture, and asking my mother who it was, and what he had discovered. I think I also asked her some question such as “What is he doing now?” because my mother kept answering “Oh, he died.” Frustrated, I asked her, “Isn’t there anyone here who didn’t die yet?” “Yes,” she answered, and pointed to the picture of Einstein. “This is Albert Einstein. He’s still alive.” Not long after that, my mother told me, “You remember we were talking about Einstein? Well, he just died,” and showed me the front page of the New York Times. I couldn’t read yet, except a few words like my name, and “Macy’s” (since we had a big cardboard carton we used to play with that had “Macy’s” printed on the side), so I don’t remember what the headline said, but I clearly remember a big picture of a smiling wild-haired Einstein. This was in April 1955, and is the earliest news event I remember.