It’s in a Book
This past weekend I was given the wonderful opportunity to dress up in a Clifford the Big Red Dog costume and meet/greet children at Reach Out and Read San Diego’s “Read and Romp” event at the The New Children’s Museum. Despite the incredible temperature levels inside the costume and the weight of the cavernous void that is the Clifford mask, it was one of the most beautiful volunteer events that I’ve had the privilege to participate in.
What the event did was put into perspective how significant reading to your child actually is. The families idolized Clifford, and that level of adoration really affected me. It was like basketball fans flocking around Kobe, but instead, for a giant red dog.
I work with children every week in an afterschool book club based around Where the Wild Things Are, and I’ve consistently seen the immeasurable effects on children that (for lack of a better term) “the imaginative world of literature” can have. Although seeing the positive effects in a bunch of restless 1st graders after school (and after they run around in every conceivable direction screaming at everything) requires some finesse. These kids really do love the story, and it shows in the work that they do — at least when we can wrangle them to do some work.
I also see what the benefits of reading to your children can be in the adults that I tutor everyday at my work for READ/San Diego. It’s a world right at your fingertips; an opportunity that, for one reason or another, many of the people that I work with didn’t have growing up.
I know this shit is mentioned to all of us through night and day, and in and out of weeks, and almost over a year, however, it didn’t really hit me until I started working with literacy. It also hits you when, sweating all over and with an increasing degree of neck pain, you have kids running up to you with their parents yelling, “I love you Clifford!” hugging you, and taking your picture like paparazzi of Lady Gaga. It didn’t take much for me to realize that all the discomfort I was currently enduring was really worth it to be around these families.
That said, I’ve compiled a top 5 list of my favorite children’s books of all time because, at this point, I just had to:
5. Dragons, Dragons by Eric Carle
I read this book so much as a kid. I hated the artwork though. Now with time, I’ve learned to appreciate Carle’s style, but I distinctly remember not really enjoying the pictures. The reason this book is on my list is because I think it really set the stage for 20 years of a wonderful Godzilla and Kaiju obsession.
4. Miss Nelson is Missing! by Harry Allard
I’d be pissed if a teacher pulled this shit on me. With Miss Nelson, however, it’s cool. I’m sure those kids learned their lesson.
3. Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
When I first read this book in first grade I really got attached to the illustrations. I got so attached that the first art award I received came that same year, which was of an excessively shaded duck that I drew based on this book. Seriously, whatever understanding I have of chiaroscuro has it roots in Make Way for Ducklings.
2. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
When I was in Pittsburgh, seeing snow for the first time in my life, I was really, REALLY excited. I think the motivation for my running adventures in 33-degree weather and snow covered streets came from this book.
1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
This book seriously makes me cry every time I read it… and I read it a lot.