The Difficulty of Simplicity
As I look back over my childhood, I’m thankful that many children’s books play an important role in my memories.
I can get quite nostalgic thinking about curling up next to Mom on the couch— back when my feet couldn’t reach the floor—and hearing her read aloud. She was (and still is) a great actress, and the books came alive in my mind over and over again.
Some of my favorite books are still easily available: Blueberries for Sal, The Snowy Day, The Story about Ping, Caps for Sale, Harry the Dirty Dog, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel . . . and the list could go on.
What made those books so special? I think their beauty lies in their simplicity. And attaining simplicity is more difficult than it might seem!
What do I mean by this? I mean that a book for children must intrigue the child by hooking him into a situation to which he can relate. It may or may not be something he has actually experienced, but it should be something he can imagine happening to him.
What if my mom and I were picking blueberries and I saw a bear?
What if I woke up one morning and saw that the street outside was covered with beautiful, clean snow?
What if I were a little duck who got distracted and wandered away from the group . . . and then the boat left me?
Or it may be something completely outside his experience—but if he can enjoy the humor or sense the suspense, he will love it and want to hear it over and over.
Where did all those caps go while that man was sleeping?
What if the family doesn’t figure out that the dirty dog at their doorstep is actually their Harry?
What if Mike and Mary Anne can’t dig that basement in just one day?
Learning to love those read-alouds as a youngster contributed to my ongoing love of reading throughout life. As I grew older, I developed a similar love for The Borrowers, for My Friend Flicka, for Misty of Chincoteague. . . . Again, the list could go on and on!
I encourage you to take some time out of your busy homeschooling schedule to read aloud to your children. Books that tell intriguing stories but also promote character traits that you'd like to encourage can have lifelong effects. And they don't have to be just the "old" classics either! Include some new(er) classics in your repertoire-such as The Far Journey, Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock, Mumsi Meets a Lion, and our latest collection of fables, Sticky Flies, Whirling Squirrels, and Plucky Ducks.
My kids have all grown past the age where they're interested in those early read-aloud stories. But that's OK. One of these days when the grandkids come along, they'll be hearing about Harry and Ping and Mike and Mary Anne . . . and cap-stealing monkeys!
About Steve Skaggs
Steve Skaggs serves as the Product Development Manager for BJU Press.