The first thing, the last thing, and every thing in between that your child's teacher will tell you is READ TO YOUR KID. Reading to them or with them for 20 minutes a day will go a long way toward their successful in school, and in life. They are not kidding.
Here's how I look at it: Learn to read. Read a lot. Exercise imagination. Acquire big vocabulary and conceptual thinking skills. Ace SATs. Save your mother money because you got a college scholarship.
All that starts with reading.
I started reading to both of my boys when they were days old. And it hasn't stopped yet. Even though my oldest is 16, we just die laughing reading David Sedaris out loud together. And we still love to take turns passing around the original Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle to read aloud as well.
My youngest? At age 7 he's already developed quite the sense of humor. I've put together a list of books that he thinks are hilarious. And that's one key component to getting a kid to love reading...entertainment. When they're having fun doing something, they keep doing it. That includes reading.
1. Math Curse
by Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Lane Smith
From the makers of "Stinky Cheese Man" comes a non-sensical look at math through the eyes of an elementary school kid. His teacher, Mrs. Fibonacci, tasks him to look at almost everything as a math problem. And thus begins his problem. As a graphic designer and writer, I really love how visually interesting this book is. Lane Smith's illustrations will remind you of Tim Burton movies, and the type design makes reading it more like solving a puzzle.
This book is a really good example of showing kids how to make connections between all things. Making these kinds of connections is the basis of creative thinking and problem solving. And this book doesn't dumb things down – it introduces concepts like Binary numbers and infinity.
2. Those Darn Squirrels and the Cat Next Door
by Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
Grumpy old man Mr. Fookwire can't tolerate the darn squirrels. They come thru his mail slot and finish his crossword puzzles. They interrupt his afternoons of oil painting the yaba and floogle birds. But even worse than the squirrels is his neighbor's jerk cat, Muffins. Muffins not only terrorizes the squirrels and gives them all squirrel wedgies, he scares the birds away so Fookwire can't paint.
My 7-yr-old reads this one himself, and actually laughs out loud as he reads. Just when you think the story is going to go a certain way, it surprises you. You'll love how the squirrels get back at Muffins. And Daniel Salmieri's illustrations are edgy and unique, like the Bizarro cartoon strip.
3. Junie B. Jones
(the series) by Barbara Park, Illustrated by Denise Brunkus
This series of early reader chapter books star the incorrigible, but good-hearted, Junie B. Jones, a kindergartner. Boys and girls alike will love her spirit, her logic (or lack thereof) and her outspoken nature. Titles in the series from "Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth" to "Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business" give you an idea of just how funny these stories are.
We read Junie B. Jones books a few chapters a night. There are pictures, and the print is larger, so it's not too hard for an early reader to read every other page with you. Remember to stop and giggle, and ask your child "Gosh! Would you do that?" Laugh along with Junie's pet worm Noodle whom she expects to come when she calls, her frenemy "That Jim I Hate" (which is what she actually calls him) and her best friend "That Grace".
4. Homer Price
Written and Illustrated by Robert McCloskey
Written in 1943, this timeless slice-of-Americana is heart-warming, sweet, and reminiscent of a Mark Twain story. This book has 6 separate tales of Homer's life in a small town, and is a mix of Leave It To Beaver and Norman Rockwell. It's a great one to read a few pages a night with your child.
My oldest loved this book so much he made a board game based on it...with cards, dice, and a gameboard, when he was in elementary school. We especially love "The Doughnuts" tale and know you will too. And because it was written in the 40s there's nothing objectionable in this book whatsoever. Just wonderful stories of everyday life and kind, curious characters, in a place where the good guys always win.
5. I, Freddy
by Dietlof Reiche, Illustrated by Joe Cepeda
This is the world's first hamster autobiography. Freddy Auratus is not just any old hamster, he's a golden hamster destined for greatness. He's very clever, reads and writes, is introspective and quite funny. This book is written in first-person from Freddy's point-of-view. And after a few pages, you'll find it perfectly normal that a hamster should talk.
I, Freddy reminds me of reading a kid's version of a Tom Robbins book – irreverent, poetic and unexpected. Things that are not supposed to talk do. Like Freddy. Like Enrico and Caruso the guinea pigs. And Sir William the cat. People merely play supporting roles in this story. And that is why I recommend it – I, Freddy shows kids the "what if" instead of "what is" perspective they need to use their imaginations.Lea Ann Stundins is a creative consultant, shopping strategist, and blogger at Mommy's Wish List.
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