Sunday, September 2, 2012

Reading with Young People

(Thanks to technology, service members on deployment may be able to read to sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews, and sons and daughters.  Reading to children at bedtime -- or instead of computer games and TV time -- can have a lifetime of benefits: expanding imagination, improving vocabulary and strengthening bonds.  Reader, writer and thinker Becky Hommon offers her recommendations of books to read to young people (or vice versa) in this guest post to Navy Reads.)

By Rebecca Hommon

One would presume that adults who read appreciate the value of reading to children or encouraging children to read for themselves.  One of my favorite experiences is to switch roles and listen as a young person reads to me.  The following provides a few of my favorites, all oldies but goodies, for either an adult to read to a child or for a child to read to an attentive adult.  it's a great illustration of succeeding just by showing up and paying attention.  Many of the books involve geography and could help a child dealing with yet another family relocation drill.

Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey tells of a Boston police officer who protects a family of mallards as they experience life in the Public Garden in downtown Boston.  The book's popularity resulted in the duck family being honored with a statue of them in their beloved garden.   A matching statue of the ducks can be found in the park at Novodevichy Convent in Moscow as a gift from First Lady Barbara Bush to First Lady Raisa Gorbachev.  Imagine the joy of a well-traveled family recording their visits to both sites.

Heading across the globe to Japan, “Basho and the Fox” by Tim Myers introduces young readers to the Japanese poem form of haiku and the effort involved in writing those seventeen syllables.  A surprise ending teaches a bit about ego and  how the taste of the judge can affect the determination of the victor.  Japanese attire, shoji doors and cherry blossoms shine in the soft illustrations.  Outside of Kyoto is a public park with statues of foxes scattered along the trail.  Putting the book together with a visit to the park seems to have some potential for fun.

Kathryn Lasky'sShe's Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!” is a humorous picture-book version of those orange-covered biographies that baby boomers recall from their early reading days.  This is the tale of Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall  who in 1896 could not vote but knew the steps needed to generate legal change.  Their efforts yielded our nation's earliest bird protection laws.  A field guide to the birds could enhance a repeated reading as the illustrations contain many species.

Jack Prelutsky writes funny short poems that in “The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders” mention a variety of places including Minneapolis, St. Paul, the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes, Fort Myers, San Jose, Seattle and Minot, North Dakota.  Reading his books with a good map of the USA sitting nearby increases the silly pleasure.  “Ride a Purple Pelican” extends the range to Canada.  His Hawaii poem is my favorite:  "Parrot with a pomegranate, pigeon with a peach flew to Honolulu to dance upon the beach.  They danced a pair of polkas, they danced a polonaise, then ended with a hula and slept for seven days."  The books are big format  with eye-popping laugh-generating illustrations that can probably be seen over a computer camera connection.

Shel Silverstein'sA Giraffe and a Half” is one long, silly illustrated poem with black and white drawings.  A child has a lead role which pleases kids and the poem uses the word "toot" often, which for some reason causes most kids to giggle and if in the company of other children often leads to joyous screams.

My favorite book for generating sleep in others is “Sam and the Firefly” by P.D. Eastman.  Everyone's asleep except Sam, the owl, until he meets Gus, the firefly.  There's a bit of tension when Gus gets caught and put in a jar but not for long as the two cause something good to happen.  They head to their respective homes until they meet again -- the next night.  It's a calming sweet story worthy of repetition.

I hope these find a way into your adult/child reading time and give both generations some special memories and joy.

(Rebecca Hommon is the environmental counsel for Navy Region Hawaii, who has personally seen both Make Way for Ducklings statues in Boston and in Moscow and the fox shrine outside of Kyoto.  For more information about reading to young people while on deployment, visit: United Through Reading. -- Bill Doughty)

Lt. Laura M. Morgan reads a book to her brother using the United Through Reading program in the library aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by MCSN K. Cecelia Engrums)

Sailors who read to young people can make a lifelong impression.

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