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Alison’s Booklist

Wait—What?
Why is an IT Company Posting a Booklist for Kids?

We’re so glad you asked

Day after day, our team of geeks slays dragons to protect and defend our clients. We love that fight, and we’re passionate about it. That’s not enough for us, though. We also want to be part of building a better community for our team members and our clients.

Toward that end, we have promoted some great non-profits in our “Season of Giving” series, sponsored years of First Lego League Teams, advocated protecting kids in digital communications, and helped parents survive the unexpected challenges of the pandemic.

The following booklists are part and parcel of these efforts. In this age where screens dominate so much of our lives and our kids’ lives, we encourage you to be old-fashioned with your little ones—cuddle up and enjoy a simple story together. Here are some resources to help you do just that

Great Books for Children

Alison Meredith’s List, Fall 2019

About the Author

Alison Meredith has been leading kids in learning and/or singing since she was a young adult.

Alison earned a BS in Mathematics from Virginia Tech.  She taught High School Math in the 1990s, at Dobyns-Bennett and at schools in North Carolina and Massachusetts.  She received a national award in 1997. Alison and her husband Tim have been home-educating their kids for over 20 years; they have 7 kids ages 8-20.

Alison is the co-owner of Tech Eagles, which provides cybersecurity and other IT services.

Alison is a best-selling author. She and other IT leaders wrote You Are the #1 Target, to help business owners implement cybersecurity.  She wrote a whitepaper and produced video tips regarding how to protect kids in digital communications.  As the pandemic started, she recorded a series of webinars to help parents maintain sanity and productivity while teaching kids at home.

Loving Children’s Literature

I have always loved Children’s Literature.

I soaked it in as a child. Nearly every Sunday, Dad would lead us into the church library before heading out the door, giving us a few minutes to check out a couple of books. I felt so important signing my name on those little cards, understanding that my signature was a huge promise to take care of the book and bring it back the following week.

When I was in fifth grade, my school librarian asked my parents if I could help her with a special job. She wanted me to read a stack of books that were highly acclaimed for their literary value but which had objectionable language. She asked, “Could Alison read these books and make a list of which curse words are on which pages? Then I can use her notes to quickly go through the books and mark out the bad language before I put them into circulation.” I was honored to have this important responsibility, and honored that both my parents and my librarian would trust me with it.

As a teenager, I reread The Chronicles of Narnia and other treasures written “for younger kids,” and I went straight to the bookshelves whenever I was asked to manage kids in the church nursery or work as a babysitter.

While a student at Virginia Tech, I found time to take Intro to Children’s Lit, an atypical elective for a Mathematics major. The textbook from that class by DL Russell is one of the few college texts I kept. I pulled it off the shelf as I was writing this and skimmed over some of my scratchy notes.

When Everything Changed

Then, 20 years ago, something life-changing happened to Tim and me. A little girl was born into the world. She did something which none of her siblings had the honor or ability to do. Her presence gave us the most important title we will ever hold: parents.

Suddenly, my love for Children’s Literature was transformed from a hobby into a passion. I wanted to find the best books for her, not only storybooks but non-fiction works as well. For example, when she was learning colors, I spent at least two hours reading book reviews to discover which board book was going to be both the most fun and the most effective at teaching her how to recognize the difference between red, orange, and pink.

However, you won’t see any board books about colors on this list. Whichever ones I chose for her got chewed to the point of disgusting and then discarded. Also discarded, a few years after she learned her colors, was my need to thoroughly research books before my kids read them. My commitment to find the exact right books for my kids was replaced with a different strategy. For that, I have my husband to thank. Here’s what happened:

Waking Up to a Better World

About 15 years ago, Tim surprised us late one afternoon. He walked into the house carrying a large box with both hands and set it on the floor. The entire box was filled with library books: fiction, nonfiction, board books, and traditional books.

I freaked out. I glared at him and asked, “How will I keep them clean? How will I not lose them? Wait, we’d better count them now, before any leave the box, so I will be prepared to take an accurate inventory when we get ready to return them. When is the duedate anyway, and how will I remember it? I have a five-year-old and two little ones under foot, are you crazy?”

When I finished pitching my little fit to my sweet husband who deserved far better, I turned around to look at our children. I observed a five-year-old and a three-year-old standing around the box, slowly pulling books out, amazed and silent. You could almost hear their thoughts, “Wow, there are so many books.” They were enthralled. They each quickly found a book they liked, sat down, and began to read or look through its pages.

Our 18-month-old also stood by the box, removing all the books which his older siblings had left inside it. He would take a book out, drop it on the floor (clearly, to his mind, that was where the books belonged), look at us with a big smile, and then return to his work.

I was hooked.

A Better Strategy

Since then, the Meredith family library boxes have had a permanent home in our living room. We use two laundry baskets; they last one to two years before they get so cracked we have to replace them. We go to the library monthly or more often, and check out the maximum number of books allowed by four library cards (thankfully, kids can have library cards too).

People ask me how I keep up with it all. I reply: “I don’t. I pay fines. We try not to be late, and we try not to lose or damage books, but sometimes it happens.”

The first time we paid a fine, I was so disappointed in myself. Then, as life became more complicated, I adopted the “I can’t bat a thousand” mindset. My check to the Bristol Public Library goes to a great cause, and the fines I pay are a pittance set against the value of reading all these books. I do teach my kids to treat the books carefully and with respect. But with the quantity we check out, I haven’t solved the puzzle of avoiding fines altogether.

This different strategy—I’ll call it “quantity, quantity, quantity”— has worked exceedingly well. Surprisingly, we ended up with quality too, a far deeper, broader quality than we could have attained had I continued to be our family’s primary researcher of great books.

My kids have become literary analysts. The best books in the library box are read by everyone multiple times. A few months later, we check out those favorites again. When a library book really shines, one of our kids will ask Nana Cary to give it to him for Christmas.

Every book on this list is either a well-worn book we own or a well-worn book we frequently check out of the library. I commend them to you, to enjoy with the children you love.


For Lap time Reading with 2-5 Year Olds


Board Books


For Kids who are Afraid of the Dark

*Emberly brilliantly prompts the child and his accompanying adult reader to chant “Go away, big green monster!” on every page—no child can read this book without feeling braver than he did before


For Couch Snuggle Time with 4-8 Year Olds

*Lynley Dodd weaves together brilliant poetry and jolly paintings to create one masterpiece after another. The book listed above regards a bossy warthog; her other works include tales about Hairy Maclary, Slinkly Malinki, Zachary Quack, the Smallest Turtle, and Schnitzel von Krumm.


For Couch Snuggle Time with 8-12 Year Olds

*My daughter called me from college to thank me for teaching her the scientific method. I replied that I was certain I deserved no such credit. She said, “Mom, that little pink book you read to us, about how to think like a scientist—don’t you remember it? We read it multiple times; it was great. Anyway, I was the only one in my class who could define the scientific method, and I promise it’s all because of that book.”

*The Armand Eisen Treasury has many classics: Snow White, Paul Bunyan, Three Little Pigs, and more.

*Any book by Jean Fritz is worth reading; she’s a master of adding just enough humor and random detail to captivate young audiences with the wonder of our history. Likewise, if you can lay hands on any book by Millicent Selsam, grab it and use it to spark in your kids the delight of studying nature.


For Big Kids to Read Independently


For Adults to Read Aloud to Kids, One Chapter Per Night at Bedtime

Poetry

Let your child pick a poem he likes. You pick one too. Each of you commit to reading your poem 3-6 times per week. Within 2 weeks your child will have his memorized verbatim, likely beating you to the task. The adventure doesn’t end there, though. The fun part is this: each of you take a turn reciting your poem to your family. Here’s one of the first poems each of my kids memorized and recited with pride. It’s from the Wilkins book referenced in the Board Books section of this list.


Books which Prompt Laughter from Kids and Adults—but for Different Reasons

* Lobel is a mastermind of crafting hilarious stories for kids which are actually a commentary on adults.

*His tale about Grasshopper’s journey is filled with childlike humor. While reading it to your child, though, you’ll enjoy a deeper meaning which our kids may not yet catch: the book is about small-minded people. How does Grasshopper react when other critters say or do illogical, silly, or unkind things?

*Any book in Rylant’s Mr. Putter series is especially delightful for grandparents to share with grandkids.

*If you think Winnie the Pooh is just a cartoon character, you are missing a treasure. A. A. Milne’s insights into how a child perceives the world are unparalleled. Like Lobel, he paints characters which children and adults find funny for different reasons. Milne portrays characters with radically different viewpoints and personalities and then describes how a caring, insightful boy pursues a relationship with each. If only more of us adults could be like Christopher Robin, patiently interacting with the pessimistic Eeyores, anxious piglets, ruminative owls, and bouncy Tiggers in our own lives.