I love reading to my kids. But I sometimes worry that it’s turning me into a curmudgeon before my time — like one of those guys you see on the corner of Broadway, ranting incoherently about the good old days.
It isn’t that I don’t like many of the new books published today. For instance, my family and I recently discovered Katherine Tegen's Dracula and Frankenstein are Friends, a truly great read for all ages. But some of the newer selections my daughter brings home (I won’t mention names) bring out my inner grumpy old man — a disgruntled, grizzled guy who thinks, “You call this a book? A tie-in of a bad TV show? A book about a… a toy?!” (This is when the steam generally begins pouring from my ears). “In my day, we had good books! Well-written books! With exciting stories! Each one an original!”
My inner rant complete, I think wistfully of the bookshelf of my youth. Actually, I don’t have to think very hard: As a children’s author, I still own a modest number of worn hardcovers — everything from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (my favorite) to The Trumpet of the Swan (the first book I remember reading in one sitting).
But there they sat, dusty and unappreciated until my daughter turned five. Faced with rereading yet another book about yet another group of helpful fairies, I pulled a faded paperback off the shelf and showed Cassie the cover.
“The Cricket in Times Square. Wanna try it?”
She frowned, then shrugged. That was all the opening I needed. With the speed of a cheetah, I had that girl on the couch and the book open in my lap. Fingers trembling, I opened to Chapter One. The pages were slightly yellowed but still unripped.
“What’s this about?” Cassie asked.
I explained: “It’s about a cricket named Tucker who comes to live with a boy by the subway. You’re gonna like it. Trust me! Now sit! Stop fidgeting! Listen!”
I wish I could report on every minute of that read, but it would take far too long. Suffice it to say, Cassie loved the book, and rediscovering it through her eyes was a joy.
Of course, I realize that my kids aren’t going like every book just because I did. Some books from yesteryear are deservedly hard to track down. But the next time you’re stuck for something to read out loud, get in touch with your inner ten year old and reach for your favorite book. Your kids might be happy you did.