This summertime fills me with the gleeful anticipation of more time to be spent fully immersed in books. Keeping the kids sharp during their school breaks is vital, as is the continuity of each adult’s forever ongoing journey towards increasing knowledge. Reading gives us the opportunity to reach not only those higher levels of knowing, but also can enhance empathy, as we are able to understand others’ life situations to a fuller extent, when we read from their vantage point. I’ve recently come across several gems (already!) in my own kiddos’ summer reading lists that I found worth sharing.
British author Beatrix Potter, who wrote and illustrated Peter Rabbit, and many more, has a fictionalized, though historically based, biography written about her called Nothing is Impossible, published in 1969. Beatrix’s grandmother is the only person who really talks to her during her pre-schooling years, as her father is busy dwindling away the family inheritance. Not surprisingly, the matriarch is upset, and tells her son about his kids’ upbringings, “But Rupert, I want them to live life, not just be blotters and absorb it. I pray their days on this earth may be interesting- and creative. They should do something with their lives, not just exist!” And, she later counsels young Beatrix, “My dear granddaughter. We would all stagnate, we’d rot, if things always remained the same. ‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new.’ A poet named Tennyson wrote those lines. Every day of your life you’re a whole day older, and even that’s a change.” The pages which beheld these treasures of wisdom to me were immediately puppy-dog-eared, so as to be referred to later, re-read as needed.
Another historical fiction work from almost the 60s, The Far Frontier immediately piqued my interest because of its pioneer era setting. But, whilst reading the author’s note in the back, I grew even more excited for this read aloud on my docket, because of these words, “Asa Twistletree is modeled on several of the early naturalists, men whose love of books and learning, whose zeal for discovery and whose passion for all of nature stands out clear and sharp on every page of their journals.” Upon an initial thumbing-through of the old, stained up hardback, which carries that specific antiquated musk with it, it seems the young main character learns how to balance the growing of his brain with keeping alive his rural family’s survival skills, all from the old, strange-seeming Mr. Twistletree.
And in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, another British great Roald Dahl wrote a lovely poem about children learning from books, as opposed to passively watching TV, which could be adapted to gaming nowadays, too. Super enjoyable in the audiobook edition via an accented, rollicking rendition, it ends with, “So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books, Ignoring all the dirty looks, The screams and yells, the bites and kicks, And children hitting you with sticks- Fear not, because we promise you That, in about a week or two Of having nothing else to do, They'll now begin to feel the need Of having something to read. And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy! You watch the slowly growing joy That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen They'll wonder what they'd ever seen In that ridiculous machine, That nauseating, foul, unclean, Repulsive television screen! And later, each and every kid Will love you more for what you did.”
And finally, in a book not for kids, but about raising them, in the famous work named Emile, Jean Jaques Rousseau says in the very first page, “From the outset raise a wall around your child’s soul.” That we do by surrounding them with these worthwhile activities, experiences, and materials to soak up, like amazing books. And after childhood is over, when we raise that wall around our own souls, we can let the awesome facets of existence, which are readily available if you look in the right places, help the garden within it flourish. Summertime is the perfect time to water and fertilize those needs, so I hope you thoroughly enjoy it!
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