Many children walk into the red doors of Baker each morning with a book clasped in their hands. I love hearing from the them about the books they are reading – from Greta’s Elephant and Piggy books to Milo’s The Mysterious Benedict Society. There is something especially wonderful about reading in fall. The cooler air and the darker nights create wonderful opportunities for adults and children alike to hunker down with a good book or an interesting article. I want to share a few of my current favorites as well as some books I return back to, year after year in the fall.
So You Want to Talk About Race – One of the two books that Baker faculty and staff read this summer, Ijeoma Oluo’s book reads like a direct conversation about many aspects of race in our culture. It is organized by a series of questions from Why can’t I touch your hair? to What is the model minority myth? I appreciate Oluo’s candid tone and direct style. It’s one of those books that I find myself going back to to reread a chapter or passage. She doesn’t spend a lot of time making me, as a white reader, feel really comfortable, and I appreciate this. One of the great benefits of reading widely is that you allow yourself to explore perspectives and experiences that are quite different than the ones you hold. For children and adults alike, this creates empathy and an innate sense of the singularity and limits of one’s particular cultural experience.
A short, pithy read from Cup of Jo blogger, Joanna Goddard, Five Ways to Teach Kids about Consent. This is great reading for all parents, young and old, regardless of gender. In the blog she reminds us of the important message for children – you are the boss of your body – and the reminder for parents that this means being okay when our children say no to a kiss from grandma. If you are short on time, take a look at Goddard’s first two points, You’re the Boss and Don’t Pout.
I just finished Michael Ondaatje’s Warlight, a sparse, poetic novel narrating a brother and sister’s experience in the midst of their parents’ clandestine post-war activities. In true form Ondaatje weaves together memory, intrigue, relationship in surprising ways. I’ve found myself going back and rereading passages. It’s always hard to say goodbye to a good book!
One of my favorite annual re-reads is the remarkable Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need from Grownups. Christakis is an early childhood expert who talks about the ways our culture has neglected to value what really makes a difference in a child’s development. If you are curious about a play-based school environment or interested in how children learn to read then this is the book for you. In the chapter, Natural Born Artists, Christakis writes about what to look for in a preschool or early childhood classroom:
Close, affectionate interactions between caregivers and children, including frequent laughter and hugs; plenty of natural, spontaneou conversational language between children and teachers; opportunities to learn socially, from peers, and not primarily from didactic teaching moments; a teaching staff that speaks confidently about young children and can link curriculum to developmental milestones and the realities of children’s lives rather than to testaments about how fun and cute a given activity might appear to be; classroom materials that invite open-ended, not closed forms of play and exploration.
Finally, I wanted to share some recommendations from some of our Baker students. I received well over 100 titles in my conversations with students, so I am sharing just a few with you here:
- David and Greta (Kindergarten) recommend, Should I Share My Ice Cream with You? from Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggy series.
- Mara (2nd grade) recommends Wangari’s Trees of Peace (the story of Wangari Maathai). Scout (2nd grade) recommends Separate is Never Equal (the story of Sylvia Mendez’ desegregation efforts). Georgia, who loves a great, funny book, recommended the Junie B. Jones series.
- Brandon (5th) recommends the Infinity Ring book series by James Dasher, and the students in the class echoed the pleasure of reading a series. Heidi (5th) recommends the Spirit Animals series and Pullman’s Golden Compass, the first of His Dark Materials series.
- Lucas (7th) recommends the Lord of the Rings; he loves the message that an average person can make a big difference in the world. Seamus (7th) shared his favorite graphic novel, the Watchmen, loved for its illustrations and plotline. And Alicia (7th) recommended her all-time favorite, an oldie but goodie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book one).
I hope you enjoy the start to a wonderful fall. Most importantly, I hope you find a great read!