Nicolas Kristof, a journalist I read and respect, just came out with his "Best Children's Books Ever". I was surprised and surprisingly disappointed. I really am not a "prescriptivist" and think anyone can become "absorbed" and truly read for mind bending betterment, almost anything under the sun. However, I do think that there is a "canon" - and what Kristof offers up, is really just trite commercial pap and dribble.

What do you think of his list? What would you axe or add?

You can see all the fine Kid's books recommended by Classroom 2.0 teachers HERE. I took a lot of time to compile these through a lot of threads/discussions and they really are some great recommendations/lists. Much better than Kristof! who should stick to politics!!!

My own summer reading recommendation for your kids - Hana's Suitcase.


Tags: amazon, books, books4teachers, bookstore, recommended

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Hi David,
Thanks for the note here - I can't resonate with Kristof's list, it really just seems to be - these are the books I liked. I can see some may have a point - but there are others that will carry the same point. I actually doubt that there is a canon these days, except through the filter of those who feed and recommend books to us. There are local canons, which say more about our subculture that our quality of literature, or its need to be required of every 'civilised' person. And such is true of cinema, music, plastic arts, drama... The days of the 'Five Foot Shelf' (the Harvard Classics) are probably long over - for good or ill. Although, to go back to the NYT, there's what appears to be a wonderful account of the reading of the "Whole Five Feet"
I echo Ian's sentiments.
I was lukewarm about the list (I'm anti-classics) even though I love the HP series and what it did for children's literature.

I do have an aside about his comment-- "In educating myself this spring about education, I was aghast to learn that American children drop in I.Q. each summer vacation — because they aren’t in school or exercising their brains."

I read an interesting article about gifted readers---many actually score higher on standardized reading tests in September than they do in May. What does that tell you about how reading is taught in many schools?? Sad.

Good point -- I've read (and more importantly experienced) enough to believe that many students given the proper parental support/home, actually thrive over the summer. I'm not just talking the gifted students either. This also says something about testing -- a very BIG something.

Ian, I also really don't believe in a "canon" as prescribed by learned and ivory type academics. However, I'm not one to go the other way and say that "we the people" are excellent gauges of what effects consciousness in creative, stimulating, reflective and action provoking ways (which what I think reading is all about, fertilizer for our soul and conscious self). I think there should be a middle ground. Further, I really think American/Canada is very poor at educating students and using translated world literature. There are wonderful works of art, to be read with great enjoyment and learning in other cultures. We do a disservice in not making them part of our own "modern canon" and instead thrusting the Harry Potters and Nancy Drew's in there....


PS. I fixed the Books4Teachers link and you can now get the recommended lists from Classroom 2.0 teachers there.
Yes, indeed. We do need selectivity in the classroom - related to what we are teaching, who we are teaching, waht experiences we are intending to mediate. And some materials suit better than others in my context. It would be just as foolish to mine the best seller lists as to uncritically accept the edicts from the on-high critics and pundits. And of course, I'd begin from my experience - since I know and love the work of LeGuin, McCall Smith, Pratchett, Garner, Cooper and Alexander. I'd drag out the Dog in the Night-Time, Flowers for Algernon, Sole Survivor and The Foghorn. Then, there are the Moomintrolls, and Asterix. I probably wouldn't drag out Potter, because I'd have covered, in briefer scale the genre and human content in other ways.

And while we're chewing through some of this, I need some colleagues who'll point me out of my genre bondage to other materials. (Since my experience is not wide, nor technically tailored to children's reading - just my own interest.)
Ian, My favorite type of children's novel is the one that inspires the reluctant reader to become an avid reader, it really doesn't matter what it is. I had several very reluctant readers (albiet gifted mathematicians) in my 6th grade gifted ed class last year--they got turned on to reading through different books and couldn't wait to tell me about the books each week. They are emailing me this summer telling me what they are reading--those are the "Best Children's Books Ever"--the ones that light that fire.
I also found Mr. Kristofs' list to be a little less than the best. I like the Harry Potter novels and "On to Oregon" sounds like it might be good.

One of my favorites is "Save Queen of Sheba". Also, most of Avis' novels are generally pretty good.
Here's a FANTASTIC list! This is definitely a great teacher!

Thank you Larry F. for sharing this gem, a real god send for other teachers who want GREAT books to read with/to/among students.

Dear Mr. Kristof, "eat my hat"!




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