A few weeks ago, I attended Jumpstart’s annual “Scribbles to Novels” gala. It was an amazing night with huge supporters of the written word–we’re talking Tina Fey, Gayle King and author Wes Moore–inspiring the crowd with their stories of how reading and a love of language from an early age changed their lives. Jumpstart’s mission is to give children literary skills and instill in them a passion for words.
I was blown away by Jumpstart’s programming and initiatives to make sure underprivileged children enter school with the tools they need to read and write. It made me realize how lucky I was that books were always a part of my life. Before I could even read, I was a bookworm. I was always flipping through books, pretending I could read them or begging someone to read me a favorite book again. Eventually I would devour several “chapter” books in a week and fill notebooks with words and phrases, desperate to write my own “books.”
It was such a treat to hear Tina Fey talk about the books she reads her daughters Alice and Penelope (That’s Not My Monster is a favorite) and how she grew up in a house where language was so important that that she got in trouble with her dad for misusing an apostrophe in a report she wrote for school! So, to celebrate the work of Jumpstart and our own love of reading here at Obsessed, may I present the children’s books that we loved and made a lasting impact!
__Anne Sachs __
“When I was really, really, really little, my favorite book was Milton the Early Riser, about a panda who woke up before everyone else and was way bummed that nobody was awake to play with him. I wonder if my parents were trying to tell me not to wake up so damn early…”
“But long-term, my favorite kid’s book was Madeline, most of which I can still recite from memory. My parents took turns reading it to me every other night, and each one read it a little bit differently, which I loved. My dad did funny voices for everyone, while my mom is just a really good reader. I know that sounds weird, but things just sound better when my mom reads them aloud. Still. I especially liked the part about how there was a crack in the ceiling that had a habit of sometimes looking like a rabbit,’ and was forever looking up as a kid, searching for ceiling cracks that looked like animals. Look, I was a weird little kid…”
__ Lindsey Unterberger__
“When I was five, before I learned to read, I memorized all the words to The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I used to tell people I already knew how to read and prove’ it by flipping through the book and reciting the words. To do this day, the book is my go-to baby present.”
“My favorite book was Ooh-la-la!: Max in Love by Maira Kalman. You’ve probably seen her colorful, cheeky illustrations around (she draws for *The New Yorker * and has collaborated with Kate Spade). It’s about a dog named Max, a poet who falls in love on a visit to France. My mom has always been obsessed with France, so she would always read this book to me growing up and I absolutely loved the drawings. Maira Kalman is still one of my favorite artists, and to this day, my own doodles are still filled with the swirly haired women she draws flawlessly.”
“Goodnight Moon! Memories of my daddy reading this one to me for years.”
“Popcorn: A Frank Asch Bear Story holds such a place in my childhood! I loved the story of so much popcorn overflowing a house during a Halloween party. It could never happen, but it was so much fun to imagine a house filled with popcorn and you had to dig your way (or eat your way!) out of it.”
“I loved The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room: The Polk Street School Series and I had EVERY book in the Polk Street School series. This was great for late elementary school reading. These books captivated me because they were so similar to my school, and life in suburban St. Louis. It’s probably the only series of books that I really loved and would read over and over.”
“I loved The Polar Express–my brothers and I can say it word for word. We had the set with William Hurt reading it on tape and of course the little silver bell!”
“My mom and I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever every single Christmas together (and I think even during a summer or two). At first she would read it to me, but eventually I took over reading—and acting out the characters—each year. I still have a super worn copy that I’ll never get rid of.”
And finally, me, Lauren Brown
“I remember when my grandma came to visit and pulled Strega Nona out of her suitcase for me. We must have read this book 100 times in the first hour alone. I just couldn’t get enough of the story of Strega Nona (which means “Grandma Witch”) and her magic pot of never ending pasta. I remember begging my grandma to make spaghetti that night–I wanted my house to overflow with spaghetti too’–though sadly I think we had baked chicken instead.”
“And I could not get enough of the most literal maid in the world–Amelia Bedelia! My grandmother bought me this book during the same trip that she gave me Strega Nona. To this day I smile when I think about Amelia’s to-do list and how she “dressed the chicken” in tiny clothes and “drew the drapes” by drawing a picture of them on notebook paper! As a child, I roared with laughter every time I read it!”
If you would like to see the wonderful conversation that took place between Gayle King and Tina Fey at Jumpstart’s Scribbles to Novels gala, here you go! Gayle asked Tina about everything from books to 30 Rock to Bossypants and everything in between–it’s worth the 30 minutes for all you who admire Tina Fey the way I do!
What are YOUR favorite children’s books? Do you do anything in your community to promote literacy? Be sure to check out Jumpstart’s web site and fill us in below!
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