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Year of 2021 Reading, A Retrospective: “Kids” Books

It’s been my goal for the last few years to read more and I’ve managed to accomplish this largely with help of my children: because of their joy of stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading them many great story books this year, most of which have been as much for me as for them. Together we’ve managed to read 26 large books this year, and I wanted to share my thoughts and impressions on these books with you, see below a few words about each series we read.

A note about reading to little kids, every child will arrive at the ability to sit and listen to a chapter of a longer book at a different time, it’s been a joy to me that Emmelia particularly has enjoyed from the time she was about 3 the process of listening to me read while sitting in my lap and it’s become evident that her ability to comprehend and engage in stories has rapidly grown so that, while all concepts are not mastered by any means, the flow of the narrative is meaningful and compelling for her. Isla on the other hand still comprehends and remembers less, but she’s starting to relate with the characters and their struggles and events that occurred, she doesn’t still as long but still enjoys the process. The point being that your kids might not enjoy these books or the process…yet…but if you love the process and engage your children in it patiently, I think your children may also get lots out of these books even if they’re very young. And remember, books are wonderful because you can read them over and over again.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

For the past 3 years we’ve included reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe into our Advent season. Because of have how readily Emmelia (3 at the time) engaged with the story it became evident that I should read the rest of them to her as well, and she loved it. Following in that same tradition, starting in December of 2020 we read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, then finished the other 5 in January and February. This year I began reading The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe specifically to Isla, we finished it before Christmas and are currently in the middle of Prince Caspian. And of course we read them in the correct order: that in which they were written.

I love these books because they are written for Children, while the themes are complex and rich they’re themes and thoughts that are established in such truth that they grow with, I know because they’ve grown with me as I’ve read them over the years and especially as I have been able to read them out loud to my own Children.

(Last year it was recommended to me by my brother in law to read Planet Narnia by Michael Ward, while it’s a pretty scholarly work and therefore can be a little on the tedious side, it greatly improved my grasp of Lewis’s goal behind these books and gave me a greater appreciation and regard for them, I highly recommend this book too.)

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

My girls have greatly enjoyed this series, in fact this is the second year we’ve read through the entire series. It’s an adventure book featuring kids ages 9-12 and it’s just fun, funny, and only a little scary. I think the humorous writing style makes this one especially fun for parents to read and the themes of sin, guilt, responsibility, redemption, adoption, betrayal etc are quite rich.

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

I read these as a boy and it wasn’t until I began reading them to my girls that I realized the greatness of these books. The import of these books is the author’s (a Christian) self conscience call to young men to be men and young women to be women. My children enjoyed these books greatly. I also enjoyed learning how to pronounce all the names.

100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson

Up to this point in our reading I’ve been pretty confident that the books were accessible to Emmelia and not completely irrelevant to Isla, but I was worried that this book might lose their interest, I am so thankful that I moved forward, these books were a joy to read. The word I would use is thematically “rich”. Emmelia especially was thoroughly engaged and together she and I found ourselves in constant story grip, we read every spare moment we could find and when we reached the end we both felt it was too soon. We’ll be reading these again this year.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone

Rachel and I obtained the Harry Potter series as they became popular, red them, generally enjoyed them, and mostly forgot about them, but they happen to be printed quite large and therefore have some prominence on our bookshelf, this along with the nature of the cover art has caused Emmelia to ask about them frequently. Therefore after the Chronicles of Prydain we decided to give it a try, overall she enjoyed it, as far as fun stories go, I did too but having spent the year reading Lewis, Tolkien, Alexander, ND and Peterson the story was readily shown to lack the life brought by homage to Christ. I’m not against reading them, and I’ll probably read more of them to my kids as I judge age appropriate, but they’re not high on the list.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

At first I wasn’t sure if Emmelia at least wasn’t old enough to appreciate or have the patience to sit through the beautiful but slow sections of these books. We began by reading the Hobbit last year and Emmelia loved it and so she insisted that we read it again this year, and so great was her enthusiasm that I felt risking a venture into the next three books was worthwhile, and I was not disappointed, Emmelia couldn’t get enough. Isla on the other hand used most of the time to play without older sister interference, I think it was a good arrangement.

I took the opportunity to try to make all of the moments as engaging as possible, I was greatly gratified at Emmelia’s dismay in tears at the loss of Gandalf in Mordor, and her wonder at his return. Our tears joined the grief of the company on the shores of the Nimrodel and I think inspired a fitful mode for the Lay of Nimrodel which I come up with on the spot and am quite proud of. We will be returning to these books often I think.

Interspersed through our serial series reading we read some possibly more age appropriate books, mostly because I remember reading them when I was a kid.

  • Mr. Popper’s Penguins
  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle
  • Stuart Little

It was a very full and rich year of reading to the girls, precious time spent that I already cherish even though I know I’ve got much more if it in front of me. My encouragement to parents is to grow in this type of quality time with your kids, it’s an rewarding investment in the stewardship of your Godly calling towards your children.

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