Yesterday I alluded that publishers had gotten quite smart about the dual reader phenomenon. The best example is Treasure Bay’s “We Both Read” series ($4.99). The books, divided into reading levels (K, K-1, 1, 1-2, 2, and 3), are written for two readers. Unlike yesterday’s recommendations — You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You — these books contain a clear hierarchy. The left page is meant for an advanced reader and often contains one or two sentences in small type-face. The right page is for emerging readers and contains one word or the final few words in large print of the adult reader’s story, giving the emerging reader a chance to ‘finish’ the sentence. The higher levels contain one or two complete sentences for the new reader.
Overall, I think this is a great idea and I recommend this series a lot. It allows for physical closeness as the adult and child are reading from one book, and it gives children an opportunity to participate in the reading experience, while still having the luxury of listening. The series also contains a range of fiction and non-fiction. My problem with the series is that the illustrations aren’t that great and the stories themselves seem a bit boring. Why even bother recommending them? Well, see the first part of this paragraph. The reading experiences that these books produce, for me, trump their quality. And it’s not to say that they are *that* bad, but let’s face it, there are far better books out there for young readers.
In keeping with the early reader/read aloud concept that has developed this week, I must say that authors and publishers have gotten smart about this niche. Mary Ann Hoberman has written a number of books using the “You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You” refrain (Little, Brown, $6.99). These books, illustrated by Michael Emberly, contain two columns of text perfect for two-part dramatization. The text columns — in different colors — are meant for reading aloud and have a nursery rhyme quality (rhythmic and rhyming), entertaining for both the tongue and the ear. The number and level of words is the same for both readers, so there is not a hierarchy and it doesn’t matter which part each person reads. While these books certainly do lend themselves to adults and children, they could also be read by two emerging readers.
In addition to You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You Very Short Stories to Read Together, there are also Fairy Tales, Fables, Scary Stories, Mother Goose tales, and 20th Century Stories to read together.
Having spent over 39 hours in the car this past week, I had plenty of time to think and one of the things I thought about is that I really wish I had brought a book. In the past, I’ve selected books for the yearly family car ride to MI. I used to read to my younger sister. And long ago, in a past relationship, my partner and I read to each other. One of my favorite read-alouds is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Harper, $6.99). If you’re thinking to yourself, “oh, that was a movie, right?” I’d like to vehemently declare, “No!” I understand that movies and books are different mediums, and see no point in comparing the two, but this is one of those situations where you wonder why they even bothered to title the movie the same as the book. The characters, plot, and — well everything — were so totally different in the movie that they might as well have started from scratch. But I digress.
Ella Enchanted, the book, is a delightful read aloud. Levine has rewritten other fairy tales since Ella Enchanted was published, but none of them is nearly as good as this first book. Fairest was forced and A Tale of Two Castles just really didn’t make sense. Ella Enchanted is innovative and subtle. Much to her fairy godmother’s chagrin, Ella was blessed (actually cursed) at birth with the gift of obedience. And yet Ella is spunky, funny, and rebellious. Listeners of all ages will enjoy Ella’s adventures and her pragmatic commentary (while reading it to my sister, three boys I used to babysit for heard the final few chapters and asked if I would read it to them). Ella is also a linguist; one of the challenges of this book is deciding how to pronounce the wide variety of languages that Ella speaks, from Elvish, Ogreese, Gnomic, and Ayorthian, the dialect of the neighboring kingdom. Over the years I’ve read this book out loud at least three times and nearly twice that many to myself. I never fail to get lost in the story and I’m always on the lookout for someone new who is willing to listen . . .
Books for babies is probably our most frequent request. My new personal baby book of choice is Haiku Baby by Betsy E. Snyder (Random House, $6.99). First, it’s just so pretty, but keep looking and it gets better and better. There are 7 tabs about different natural elements and rather incongruous animals with a haiku for each:
high on mountaintop,
hippo watches snowflakes dance—
winter has begun
The accompanying hippo, complete with pink scarf and bird, standing on a mountaintop and watching the snow flakes fall is priceless.
The book covers the various seasons and each page is equally delightful.
in tickly-toe grass,
a buttercup offers up
yellow nose kisses
“tickly-toe grass”?!?!? Can’t you feel it? The hard t, k, and g sounds evoke walking through the grass barefoot in the summer. I love that the words then smooth out into “yellow nose kisses”, perfect for laying outside perhaps snoozing in the afternoon sun.
These haikus dance off the tongue and are perfect for reading aloud while snuggling with a baby. But don’t neglect this book for toddlers up to 2. The illustrations are simple, but there is plenty to look at and offer interactive games. I suspect no one will be able to resist the invitation to tickle those little toes.