My niece Isabell is now seven and reading chapter books. My heart flutters at all the possibilities. While I was home visiting, we went over to Barnes and Noble and I told her she could pick out any book she wanted and I’d buy it for her.
She picked one I’d never heard of at the same time I spotted a copy of Bunnicula. I pitched the vampire bunny with success, and told Isabell she could have them both. Then I started browsing as she went to pick out a picture book for her brother.
Julie of the Wolves. Indian in the Cupboard. The Witches. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Little House on the Prairie. Where the Red Fern Grows. The Hobbit (which my dad read to me). The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of Nimh. And so, so many more - including ones like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which weren’t around when I was a kid.
I was pulling books of the shelves so fast, I had a pile I couldn’t carry in under two minutes. Then I had to wind back a bit, and try to think in terms of what a seven year old could actually read, and what books were just a smidge over her current reading level.
Then I remembered reading classics as a kid – small hardcover books of literary works abridged with pictures for young readers. When I found them, it started all over.
White Fang. Swiss Family Robison. King Author and the Knights of Camelot. Treasure Island. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
In the end, I couldn’t cull my stack smaller than eight books. In the car, I handed Isabell the Classic Starts version of Swiss Family Robison and she read the back cover. A few minutes later, she said, “This sounds so cool!”
We talked about how reading isn’t just for bedtime. She boasted about reading an entire chapter book, on her own, in just ten days. We talked about how many chapters she could read in a day. I asked her to call me every time she finished a new book.
We got home from the store, and she sat next to me on the couch, feet on my lap, and read four chapters of one of her new books.