Monday, February 15, 2010

"Read it Again, Mommy!"

As an avid internet shopper, I try to grab good deals wherever I see them. So when I saw Children Just like Me on Amazon for one cent (plus shipping) I instantly bought it. It was used and published back in 1995, but I felt sure it would soon be a household favorite. When my five-year-old saw the cover she was less than intrigued. She said "oh" in that way you do when a package comes in the mail and doesn't contain chocolate or clothes.

Over the next couple of days I would pick up the book and sit on the couch, thumbing through it. Today, my daughter came over and sat next to me. As I felt her peer over my shoulder, I just began reading. In the book, each child from a geographically distinct part of the world has a full page profile with detailed color photos of their family, home, school, toys, food, and more. The kids talk about these things in their own words. Cora was soon hooked. We read about kids from South America, Alaska, and Eastern Europe. Tomorrow it will be Africa and Asia, Australia and Western Europe.

Although it is tempting to just buy popular TV characters and fad book series, I find that after reading those books once or twice, my kids have lost interest. The books usually lack originality and, often, substance. They teach a simple lesson or new vocabulary words. Once these things are learned, the books cease to have value. That doesn't mean I don't buy these books or appreciate them as gifts-- I do, but I know they are not going to be favorites. What I really look for now is a book that touches on something so huge, so abstract that the kids get something new out of it each time they read it. Sometimes these books are slow to catch on. If the kids don't seem interested at first, I just keep trying. (This is also why I can't get these books from the library. They can't sit around waiting for our attention for six months!)

Children Just Like Me seems to capture a certain message about childhood without preaching about it, which is why it is so addictive. In the same way, I hope my other recent purchases will help give my children some perspective. I bought James Herriot's Treasury for Children and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. I'm also awaiting the arrival of Material World: A Global Family Portrait, a series of photos of families and their belongings arranged outside their homes. I'll keep you posted on how those go. In the meantime, I will be answering the call of "Read it again, Mommy!" with glee.


  1. I agree, Jen. The books that are just marketing extensions of TV shows or movies (I call them "boovies") rarely have any enduring value.