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Janie McQueen

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The New Magic Bookshelf
by Janie McQueen   

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Publisher:  Fine Lines Publishing ISBN-10:  0981611435 Type: 


Copyright:  November 21, 2008 ISBN-13:  9780981611433

Magic Bookshelf Online
Magic Bookshelf Online

Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever

Here's the new 10th Anniversary Edition of the critically acclaimed parents' guide The Magic Bookshelf, a book about children's books that has been featured in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Parenting's Baby Talk magazine and Positive Parenting, a radio show hosted by bestselling author Armin Brott, AKA "Mr Dad." Freshly named The New Magic Bookshelf: Finding Great Books Your Child Will Treasure Forever, this hands-on, practical resource book has been completely revised and updated by its original author.

Books about books abound, but The New Magic Bookshelf remains unique on the parenting market, targeting the ever-growing needs of parents who want to create literate environments in their homes and who need simple, solid, almost guaranteed no-fail kids' book choices to help children find the special books that not only pass time or garner bonus points, but enrich their lives.

Whether there's a new baby in the house, or your child is an enthusiastic but bored reader, or you have a junior "junk book junkie" who's never met a good book she really likes, or even if your child lives far away from you, there's a starting place and a plan here for everyone to get started on the good stuff.

Manifesto for a Reader

When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.
—Maya Angelou

The Roman poet Cicero called books “the food of youth.” But let’s face it. Many of us operate on the “good enough” philosophy when it comes to our children’s reading. How many times have you heard your own peers say: “Well, at least he’s reading something...” when they talk about a child’s lack of interest in reading beyond electronic gaming guides and pulpy stuff?
Look at it this way. Would you say: “At least she’s eating something...” if your child was only interested in candy bars and soft drinks? Of course not. Why, then, do many parents forget that brains, like bodies, need developing with nourishment and exercise?
Everything we know about learning and development points to the need to provide rich experiences for children if they are to mature into thoughtful and purposeful adults. According to Dorothy Butler’s research in Babies Need Books, about one half of a person’s intelligence quotient is developed by age four, with the next 30 percent accruing by age eight.F
The more meaningful experiences to which children are exposed, the better and faster their brains develop. We know that children who lack this fullness of experience often develop more slowly and fall behind their more culturally advantaged peers. Sadly, a child who doesn’t use his brain at age ten is unlikely to get much use out of it as an adult.
Contrary to what many like to believe, intellectual achievement is not a function of income. Most families have access to a public library or bookmobile, and most can tune in a radio station that broadcasts classical and other cultural music and programs. The Internet can be accessed as easily from school and the public library as from home.
And just as research indicates children who listen to Mozart at a young age have quicker mental development, even more research shows that young children who are exposed early to excellent books and literature will do better throughout their educational careers, and consequently become more empowered as adults. Now, as reading is a hobby that requires little money to sustain, this is quite affordable supplementary education indeed!
Yet a common reaction to suggestions that children read (or be read) better written, more challenging literature than just the popular “lowest common denominator” fare is, “Oh, just let them be kids and read kid stuff. They’re only children once.” Exactly! That’s why, though such a reaction sounds kindly at first blush, that same parent (or educator) might as well say, “They’re only children. They don’t need or deserve to read anything really good.”
I suspect adults with this mentality have somehow developed distorted impressions of what it means to encourage the reading of good books. For one, many fail to understand what a good book is. They envision themselves yanking away a child’s prized horror book and solemnly replacing it with some dusty, impossibly boring tome, with the dubious reassurance, “This is good for you! You might not realize it now, but you’ll thank me later.”
Now, that is grim! But as silly—and scary—as that scenario might seem, it does somewhat accurately describe what some of us, in our quick-fix computer age, have come to think. However, as a parent, my approach doesn’t call for feeding books to children like some literary spinach. We’re not talking about morality tales written in antiquated prose, or dated classics that are tedious and difficult to understand. Anyone familiar with Dr. Seuss knows a thought-provoking book doesn’t have to be hard to read to appreciate. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
This book aims to show parents and other guardians how to create more literate environments for children, regardless of age, reading, or income level, and to guide them to books that can truly make a difference in their children’s lives. This environment will include your own “literary legacies” and the finest children’s books—both the established and up-and-coming—that will open the door to a lifetime of cultural literacy. But most of all, you and your family will find a core of worthwhile, high quality books that might not be familiar to you now but are so good, captivated young readers will be unable to put them down. For this is the true great “kid’s stuff.”
As well as entertaining children and telling stories strong enough to live in their memories for years to come, good books can teach them how to deal with challenging circumstances and demonstrate how life presents actions and consequences. In today’s world, we’re judged by our ability to solve problems. Through literary works like The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupéry, Louis Sachar’s Holes, and Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, which happen to be books with radically different themes, children can learn to become “outside the box” thinkers. Many adults claim that in their own childhoods, books were their main support systems in difficult times.
This philosophy is one of opportunity, not deprivation. We can’t afford to let high-tech, but limited, pursuits and sub-literature steal our children’s brief moments of availability for books that can help lay the foundation for entire lifetimes of innovative thinking and learning. Picasso asserted that children are artistic because they haven’t learned to clamp down on their imaginations like adults. Childhood is but a brief season in life. As parents, we are obligated to nurture the creativity and innocence while it’s at its peak.
Research conducted with children from Eastern European orphanages shows us that lost time is hard—sometimes impossible—to make up. Dr. Seuss, E.B. White, Katherine Paterson, Roald Dahl, and other fine authors have only a brief time available to reach inside those darkened rooms of the young mind and trip the light switch. Your child’s future asks that you give proven literary wizards like these a chance to make magic.
The beauty of this is, aside from the obvious cumulative benefits of growing up in a reading culture, good books introduce vivid imaginary worlds in which to joyfully escape, and instruct children in ways that are important to them, thus enriching their imaginations and even the quality of their outside lives now. How can we improve on that?

Janie Brooks McQueen
Roswell, Georgia

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