The Best Books of 2017 – or maybe not…..

This is not the forum for me to share a list of things I detest. (Some of these include:- wet ice lolly (ice block NZ) sticks (I can barely write the words), magicians, ventriloquists and impressionists (not the 19th century artists), pop socks and chard (silver beet NZ)….)

The relevant item on my list is an intense dislike of end of year reviews. I understand that it is through practice and necessity that the press cuts down production over Christmas so that newspapers and magazines are vague facsimiles of anything decently readable, but why this preponderance of ‘end is nigh’ reviews and critiques? As though the day after December 31st is a void?

Britain has become accustomed to the end of year talking head shows in which a series of ‘celebrities’ review the year’s notable events and people. There is a phalanx of ‘best of’ TV and radio shows, repeats of dyed in the wool, shone to a polish, resurrected favourites. It has always seemed odd, as someone never truly accustomed to Christmas without a follow-up summer holiday, that this time of year, with perpetual darkness and a need for great media, should be be peppered by reminiscences.

It is a Bookwagon maxim that we recommend and sell books we have ‘read and love’ only. How can I with that truth, offer my favourite books of the year? There are some that mean more to me than others, for different reasons. However, the Bookwagon team consults each other on our reading decisions. This week, we debated a title about which I was not impressed, but Mr Bookwagon liked so much, that I was forced to reread and reconsider.

Therefore Bookwagon‘s best books of 2017 are our books that we have read and love and recommend and sell.

Amongst those books are those we recommend for parents, friends and grandparents looking for ‘bedtime reads’. There is a growth in that kind of ‘need’ at this time of year, when families settle in for the winter, with all those woollies and leisure wear pieces determined to end up wrapped beneath the Christmas tree.

It may be somewhat remiss of me, but it’s only been fairly recently, I’ve realised how important this bedtime reading action is to the reader. As a researcher and educator I knew and have expounded on the value of a bedtime reading habit for the child, the person being read to – but the reader?

When I read aloud, I feel bonded with my listeners. As a teacher, I loved hearing individual readers, sharing the joy and meaning of their books. Last week, at dinner, a friend was reminiscing about the books he’d read with his children, who are now grown. He said, ‘I was away working such long hours, that coming home to read with them was my  way of reconnecting, of bonding, of getting to know them.’ 

I’ve just finished reading Lauren Graham’s memoir, ‘Talking as Fast as I Can‘ wherein, as a self-created character, ‘Old Lady Jackson’ she bemoans the intrusion of mobile devices. Dame Jacqueline Wilson interviewed ahead of her Bafta award for services to writing said, ‘I find it sad that adults aren’t reading as much. On the train 10 years ago people were reading books – I would love trying to work out what titles they were reading. No I’ll be the only person with a book on my lap and everyone else is glued to their smartphones or checking emails. Electronic life has wiped out books.

In this forum, I have raised the fact that children who see their parents reading are more likely to build a  lifelong reading habit than those who do not. Educator Jim Trelease points out in his book, ‘The Read-Aloud Handbook‘,  ‘A child who has been read to will want to learn to read herself. She will want to do what she sees her parents doing. But if a child never sees anyone pick up a book, she isn’t going to have that desire. Knowing how many habits children pick up from grown-ups around them, reading is one activity parents should aim to get caught doing in front of their kids.’

So putting down the devices, shutting off the work demands, aiming to have a personal reading habit that models the one you want for your child are ideal aims. Yet the aim that benefits you and your child, as well as being more immediately accessible, is that bedtime reading bond.

Research shows that those children who are read to regularly have higher brain activity, improved literacy and memory, better vocabulary, greater attention and concentration skills, more keenly developed self image and confidence –  CNN research into healthy reading habits. They hear the rhythm of language, make sense of words beyond their own vocabulary, make connections, conjecture, enquire, wonder and decide. They predict, reassess, make sense, realise nonsense, take meaning and joy.

Winter woollies, firesides, long days of eating, drinking, family and silent alarm clocks should not be interrupted by devices, cannot be fulfilled by a Christmas television schedule or fuller newspaper content, but is one of the best times of the year to initiate, resume or extend your bedtime reading connection. Ultimately, bedtime reading offers a unique time for you and your child, an unhurried physical closeness and shared purpose unlike any other time of the day for you both. It is precious.

We offer the following suggestions from the Bookwagon bookshop as possible bedtime read aloud titles:-

For younger, pre-school, infant readers, we include:-

Can I Come Too?

Goodnight Everyone

The Mouse Who Ate the Moon

Mouse House

Grandad’s Secret Giant

Harris Finds His Feet   

A Great Big Cuddle Poems for the Very Young

For younger, school age readers, we include:-

The Tale of Angelino Brown

Mostly Mary: A Mary Plain Adventure

The World is Not a Rectangle

Odd and the Frost Giants

Extra Yarn    

My Dog Mouse

The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales

Good Dog McTavish

For older, school age readers, we include:-

Wolf Hollow

The Unforgotten Coat

The Silver Donkey  

The Poet’s Dog

All the Things that Could Go Wrong    

Frogkisser!   

A Story Like the Wind   

For older, teen readers, we include:-

Piglettes

Maggot Moon

The Princess Bride

Salt to the Sea

Orbiting Jupiter

Mr Bookwagon has just enquired, ‘So when do children STOP being read to?’ My response is that offered by many other educators, researchers and those in the world of children’s books- ‘They will let you know.’

What I have learned is that when that sad day arrives, you will grieve more than the reader whom you have enabled. You will recall the titles, the words and writers, but most of all you, you will remember the closeness.

Happy reading.

 

 

 

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